How to Spot Bottlenecks In Your Production Processes
Bottlenecks in production can have multiple consequences. They can lead to delays and increased costs, but they can also be a reflection of poorly allocated human resources. Bottlenecks almost always affect some employees more than others and can lead to frustration not only for them but for people on both sides of the bottleneck.
This is not something you can afford to take lightly in your organization, and if you suspect that there are bottlenecks at certain stages, you need to monitor your processes better and make some corrections immediately. Here are a few ways that you can spot bottlenecks in your production processes.
Map Your Processes Out
The first thing to do is map out your processes. You’ll never be able to fix them if you don’t have a clear view, so consider using a flowchart creator to identify every step. This is what ultimately will allow you to know where bottlenecks could appear and who or what could be responsible for them.
You need to do this even if you’re a small operation with seemingly simple processes. So many small shops never really take the time to map their processes out and end up coming up with solutions on the fly. There will often be a lack of communication between nodes as well, and without clear mapped out processes and procedures to standardize them, you can expect employees to come up with workarounds and shortcuts, which could lead to bottlenecks at the quality control stage.
Do a Visual Inspection
Processes are conceptualized on flow charts and are applied on the shop floor. So, one of the easiest ways to spot bottlenecks is to look for any signs of accumulation there. If you notice that some employees seem to be working normally, others are trying their best to look busy, and you see material piling up at one particular station, then it’s a clear sign of a bottleneck. Especially if the employees there seem to be in over their heads.
Use a Kanban Tool
Move to Kanban immediately if you haven’t already. Kanban is an agile workflow management system that was made specifically to keep track of work in progress, identify bottlenecks, and continuously improve processes.
One of the best things about Kanban is that it allows you to monitor every step down to the last detail. You can know exactly how long a certain task took to move from one stage to the other, and who was in charge at the time.
This means that you will not only be able to spot bottlenecks fast but get a better idea of why they’re occurring. If you notice that one employee is taking twice the time to complete a task than other people, then you’ll be able to bring them in for an evaluation. You’ll also have cold hard data to show them that it is not a personal issue.
You can check to see if issues are because of a lack of resources, as Kanban allows you to see if you’re overworking your team and review your production limits.
Ask Your Employees
Set up an anonymous reporting system in your workplace. Not only will this allow you to find out if trouble is brewing on the floor, but also find out if some of your employees are discontented about a part of your production processes.
Hearing employee frustrations could allow you to know exactly where bottlenecks are and whether specific employees or departments are at fault.
Virtually all shops will check the utilization rate of every production unit on their line. If you notice that one machine is seeing more usage than the others, then you may have found your bottleneck. You’ll then need to figure out how to solve the issue. You could either review your production target or get a better-performing machine at this stage of the production process.
You should also try to increase throughput at different stages of the production process and see if the output changes. If you increase throughput at a specific stage and your output remains largely unchanged then this means that the bottleneck is after that stage. If you increase throughput at a certain part and you see an instant increase in output, then you’ve just found your bottleneck.
These are all things that will allow you to identify bottlenecks in your process accurately. Monitoring bottlenecks should be a central part of your operation and what could ultimately separate you from the rest in your sector.