Often we are all too aware that there is a bottleneck in our production process, but to actually find and eliminate the bottleneck is usually a complex and time consuming task.
A bottleneck occurs where part of a process has lower throughput capacity than the rest of the process. The bottleneck is then limiting the speed of throughput through the whole process. For example; if all the machines in a production process are capable of a throughput of 100 parts per hour apart from one machine that can only process 75 parts per hour, then the 75 parts per hour machine will be the bottleneck in your production process.
Following the steps outlined below will help you to quickly identify the bottleneck in your process and enable you to establish the necessary measures you need to take to remove or exploit that bottleneck.
Step One – Identify the bottleneck in your production process
Bottleneck machines or processes are often easily identified as they have a build-up of parts waiting to be processed by them.
If your bottleneck is not so obvious, then it is best to create a flow chart showing the step by step processes that are involved in producing the particular product or part you believe may be part of a bottleneck process. Having completed a flow chart, you will then have an idea as to where in the process the bottleneck may be occurring, and you will be able to investigate this area further to see exactly where the bottleneck is.
Think broad, for example it may not be the speed of the machine when it is actually running, it may be the changeover time that drags a machine’s overall throughput down.
Step Two – Exploit the bottleneck
Having identified the bottleneck, it is important to do everything you can to ensure that the bottleneck machine or process is working to maximum efficiency.
The first and simplest way to do this is to quality check the parts entering the bottleneck for defects and reject any that are substandard before they enter the bottleneck machine or process. This ensures that the bottleneck is only working on good quality parts.
Check to see if all of the products going through the bottleneck have to go through it. Could some be processed in another way? Reducing the load on the bottleneck increases the overall throughput of your factory.
Increase the capacity of your bottleneck. Do you need to add another machine or more staff to this part of the process to help increase the capacity of the bottleneck?
Ensure that your bottleneck is working all of the time. Plan staff breaks or automate the process to ensure that the bottleneck never stops working except for maintenance or tool changes. If you are not already running the bottleneck machine or process 24/7 then consider doing so to increase capacity.
If you would like help and advice as to the best way to exploit the constraints of your bottleneck, one of our automation advisors will be happy to assist you. Contact us on 01223 499488 or email@example.com .
Step Three – Go back to Step One
Having identified and exploited the bottleneck in your production process, it is important to begin the identifying and exploiting process again. You may find that the bottleneck has now moved to a different machine or process, or indeed you may have a wandering bottleneck in your production process.
Therefore, to enable maximum efficiency, it is very important to keep on reviewing where your bottlenecks are and exploiting these constraints.
For a more comprehensive overview on how to identify and eliminate bottlenecks we recommend reading ‘The Goal’ by Eliyahu M. Goldratt.
If you would like further help and advice on how to exploit the constraints of your bottleneck, one of our automation advisors will be happy to assist you. Contact us on 01223 499488 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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