Process Bottlenecks: how to deal with it

One of the most critical reasons that explains why most companies cannot deliver a product on time is process bottlenecks. Bottlenecks lead to delayed projects, so budgets quickly burst from the added cost and the whole process becomes unpredictable

It is a reality that several companies all around the world consider investments to increase their capacity, like moving to a bigger building. 

However, this strategy is not scalable in the long term. What does really matter is what keeps their capacity down. 

The good news is that companies can often multiply its output by 2 or 3 simply analyzing their processes instead of moving to another building. 

This is where bottlenecks take place. They are a quite common hindrance within manufacturing businesses that tend to develop no matter how smooth your process is. 

In this article, you will learn how to use ISC Software to analyze and dramatically improve process bottlenecks. This way, you will be able to control the workflow of your entire process. 

But before diving into how to manage bottlenecks with ISC advanced software, let us define what a bottleneck is. 

What are process bottlenecks?

To put things simple, a bottleneck is something that limits the capacity of a system. It is a work stage that receives more requests than it can process at its maximum production capacity.  

This situation causes an interruption to the workflow and introduces delays across the whole production process. As this affects the cycle time, the customer demand (takt time) cannot be met successfully.  

Take a look at the following picture. You might have 8 operations within a process where two of them gets more requests that they can process. This will result in the impossibility of delivering a product on time. 

Please note that the red dashed line represents the takt time. That is, the maximum amount of time a product must be produced to meet customer demand

process bottleneck cycle time takt time operation

In other words, even if the whole process works at its maximum capacity, it still cannot process all the work quick enough to deliver products on time. 

Process bottlenecks problems

As we can see in the figure below, the bottleneck in the process is process step 2 because it has the longest cycle time. 

process bottleneck

Bear in mind that there is a WIP or work in progress buffer between process step 1 and process step 2. This is where inventory is accumulated waiting to be processed by step 2. 

However, bottlenecks not only slow the overall capacity of the process. It also causes other problems that must be solved. 

Processing Blockage

This issue happens when there is no more room to store WIP or buffer stock before the bottleneck process. 

This will cause the whole production line to collapse and stop until the WIP is cleared or processed. 

In the image above this will happen when the WIP area cannot store more material, blocking the process until process step 2 processes some. 

Processing Starvation

This error occurs when the steps after the process bottleneck are forced to stop or be idle because of lack of material process. The bottleneck must process its WIP to supply materials to the next step. 

In the example above process step 3 can become starved because its cycle time is lower than the cycle time of the bottleneck. 

So, it will be forced to stop, while it waits for material. 

How to detect process bottlenecks

Finding out process bottlenecks can be quick and easy at a simple glance.  

If the bottleneck is not the first operation of the process, a lot of inventory tends to be waiting before the bottleneck.  

However, a more efficient approach is to measure the cycle time of every work stage. This way, it is possible to build a cycle time diagram, like the image above. Just a glance at this diagram reveals the stages that spend the most amount of time. 

In fact, some of these stages are probably bottlenecks. 

Ok. Now that you see the bottlenecks, what to do next? 

How to reduce the impact of process bottlenecks

Fortunately, there are several approaches to achieve this goal: 

  • Process Improvement: for example, deeply analyzing every individual process to improve the cycle time. This is the best choice, the way ISC works and the most used option by manufacturers. 
  • Increasing resources: adding more workers or machines may work. However, this option is often expensive and adds more complexity to the overall process. 
  • Automating the process: it is important to carefully assess the benefits of automation and to go slowly. Let your staff become familiar with automation. 
  • Subcontract work to other companies: this option is probably the worst in terms of quality and confidentiality

Theory of Constraints (TOC)

Commonly used by lean manufacturers, the Theory of Constraints emphasizes the importance of analysis and management of bottlenecks

It describes why bottleneck management is extremely important within a supply chain. One being, that improving the capacity of the machine typically leads to increasing the profit significantly

So, to understand and reduce or eliminate the eight wastes of lean (TIMWOODS) is in general an effective method for bottleneck reduction.  

Advanced Bottleneck Analysis with ISC Software

This section will guide you from start to end through the analysis of your main bottleneck within your entire process. 

We will assume that we discover the bottleneck at a glance and it is a machine process. 

It is important to differentiate between machine and manual operation to perform an effective analysis. 

DGM focuses on machine processes and provides the best tools for machine analysis, whereas DGI focuses on manual operations and provides the most effective techniques to analyze human works. 

Bear in mind that we will not cover a deeply understanding of the ISC Software, as it is not the main content of the post. We will discuss about the steps to perform the analysis with our professional software. 

For a better understanding of DGM and DGI, you can download a 7-day trial without limitations and credit card requirements. 

Try now for free and start with DGM! 

Machine Bottleneck with DGM

Once you log in DGM, the first window is the analysis screen that requires the following actions.

  1. Define where the cycle starts and where it ends. 
  1. Create the elements that best represent the movements of the machine. 
  1. Place the elements above into the machine cycle time defining where they start and finish. 
time and motion study bottleneck

Statistics

This screen automatically compiles a full set of statistics related to the previous analysis. 

It also finds out waiting waste. That is, time when the machine is not adding value and that should be reduced or eliminated. 

Furthermore, it displays a chart that represents your machine process. 

bottlenecks

Non-Value Added Analysis

In this screen is where the magic happens. It provides a complete set of optimization options that allow the user to improve the overall machine cycle

For every movement: 

  1. Ask yourself why the selected movement is being performed. This will help you find potentially eliminable lines. 
  1. Ask yourself for what the selected movement is performed. This may help you find out inefficient movements. 
  1. Below, you will find some check boxes to identify how to improve the movement. Typically, the why is related to the eliminate option, while the for what is related to the other options. 
  1. And last but not least, you may specify which tasks should be implemented to achieve the optimization. 
non added value bottleneck

Statistics

If you go back to the previous screen, the statistics are updated with the improvement analysis made above. 

Now, you can compare both actual and improvement charts, customize and export the reports in PDF or Excel format. 

Action Plan

This is the last screen of DGM. The Action Plan is based on the Gantt Chart and allows you to manage the time and resources of every single task defined in the non-value-added module. 

action plan process bottlenecks
Quick & Outstanding Results
DGM has an average of 30% increased performance.

Manual Bottleneck with DGI

The process is very similar to that seen above. Simply follow the next guidelines.

 

Once you log in DGI, the first window is the analysis screen that requires the following actions: 

  1. Define where the manual cycle starts and where it ends. 
  1. Create the sequences that best represent the movements of the worker at the exact frames of the video. 
manual work process bottlenecks

MTM-2 and ergonomics analysis

This window provides a powerful MTM-2 analyzer with an added feature to carry out ergonomics studies in case of bad postures of the worker. 

  1. For every sequence defined above, build the corresponding MTM-2 analysis. 
  1. Optionally, you may specify an ergonomic value to each MTM-2 movement that may cause worker injury. Then, do the complete ergonomics analysis. 
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Statistics

This screen automatically compiles a complete set of statistics related to the previous analysis. 

You may also find automatic suggestions about how to improve some MTM-2 movements. 

statistics bug data industry 4.0 time and motion study software

Non-Value Added Analysis

In this screen is where you do the improvement. It provides a complete set of optimization options that allow the user to improve the overall manual cycle. 

For every movement: 

  1. Ask yourself why the selected movement is being performed. This will help you find potentially eliminable lines. 
  1. Ask yourself for what the selected movement is performed. This may help you find out inefficient movements. 
  1. Below, you will find some check boxes to identify how to improve the movement. Typically, the why is related to the eliminate option, while the for what is related to the movae option (motion waste). 
  1. If you check the movae option, you must redefine the improved MTM-2 study. 
  1. And last but not least, you may specify which tasks should be implemented to achieve the optimization. 
line balancing

Statistics

If you go back to the previous screen, the statistics are updated with the improvement analysis made above. 

Now, you will find the Non-Value-Added stats and the Improved MTM-2 data. 

Action Plan

This is the last screen of DGI. The Action Plan is based on the Gantt Chart and allows you to manage the time and resources of every single task defined in the non-value-added module. 

gantt chart bottlenecks
Quick & Outstanding Results
DGI has an average of 20% increased performance.

In summary

If your time is normally stressed and delivery dates are missed in most cases, then the bottleneck analysis should be essential in your business. 

Luckily, as you have seen in this post, lean management in combination with ISC Software bring an excellent opportunity to quickly discover and overcome not only bottlenecks, but also to improve every single process

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