Do you know your Bottlenecks ?

‘The Goal’ by Eliyahu M. Goldratt. An international bestseller and a bookshelf must-have for all self-respecting performance improvement professionals. To create an engrossing novel around the subject matter of factory optimisation is no mean task. Goldratt seamlessly achieves this.


The central theme and takeaway from Goldratt’s seminal novel is the ‘Theory of constraints,’ or in simpler terms, identifying and resourcing the bottlenecks in your business. A now universally accepted concept.


We are all familiar with the term ‘bottleneck’ from everyday conversation, but when applied to manufacturing operations, or any business process indeed, it can be transformative.


For a moment, can I ask you to look inwards at your own business? Do you know what is holding back your performance at present, or what are the limiting factors for growth or productivity? If you do, then how much of your time and resources are being focussed on improving it?


The root cause of your concerns can be traced back to a ‘bottleneck’ within your business. It could be a single department., person, or unit of plant that is controlling the total output and by extension performance of your whole business.


If you are in manufacturing, this could be one area of the plant responsible for the greatest downtimes? Or an imbalance in your factory flow and capacities, resulting in work in progress building up between stages?


If you are in offsite construction manufacturing, your design dept. might not be coordinated with manufacturing to ensure efficient factory outputs rates can be maintained? Or your despatch operations are not sufficiently resourced and coordinated with manufacturing to move finished goods to site?


In all instances, the net impact can be that customer service levels drop, or lead times increase as your business struggles to keep up with demand? Alternatively, your assets remain underutilised that then drives up operating costs and reduces profitability.


As the adage goes, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. In Goldratt’s language, a factory or process is only as productive as its weakest bottleneck.


The best sales team in the world is of little use if you do not have an operations team capable of servicing the orders. Similarly, there is little value in having a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility lying underutilised if it does not have the sales pipeline to keep it humming.


As business leaders, your focus should be on understanding the constraints in your business at any given point in time. Following that, ensure that there is focus and clarity amongst your team on how to address them.


If you have not read Goldratt’s ‘The Goal’ and you fancy something a bit different from the regular stable of business or self-help books, try it. I guarantee you will enjoy it. It will reshape the way you look at things forever. It did for me.