When things are going, wrong a whole lot of different stuff is being done by all parties involved. Often the workers are frustrated by inferior tools, ingredients, procedures, and so on. Managers are frustrated by “workers” who don’t follow agreed systems or meet targets, deadlines or budgets.

In these two conflicting situations, the outcome is that all too often bottlenecks aren’t identified as bottlenecks, and quick fixes are applied.

The quick fix approach, also known as “Ready, Fire, Aim” is usually:

  1. Throw more money at the problem.
  2. Throw more people at the problem.
  3. Cancel the job.
  4. Call in a consultant.
  5. Panic.

A more systematic solution needs to be adopted.

In his book The Goal Goldratt suggests that there are several steps to clearing a bottleneck, and they must be done in the right order.

Step 1Identify the bottleneck.

Step 2Exploit the bottleneck.

  • The bottleneck should only do what only the bottleneck can do,
  • Work on most profitable product,
  • Create a pile of work for the bottleneck.
  • The bottleneck should not be used for rework e.g fixing mistakes.
  • Plan maintenance for least impact on production.

Step 3Look after the bottleneck.

  • The bottleneck sets the pace.
  • The bottleneck has first call on all resources.
  • The bottleneck cannot be idle.

Step 4 Increase the capacity of the Bottleneck.

  • Streamline the bottleneck processes.
  • Arrange work into a conveyor belt.
  • Reduce set-up time.
  • Reduce interruptions.
  • Delegate all work that can be done by other resources.
  • Now consider adding another resource!

Step 5 Find the next bottleneck.