Find and fix bottlenecks in your manufacturing processes

Bottlenecks can slow and even halt the production process

Due to the complexity of many production lines, it is inevitable that bottlenecks will appear. If these are not fixed they can really damage your company’s ability to keep your orders flowing off the line. When this happens, your firm will incur additional costs, any delays no doubt restricting your company’s growth.

bottlenecks caution sign

The bottleneck itself may not be the real problem though, it can be just a warning sign that there is a deeper-rooted issue that needs attention. This, ‘hidden’ real issue is the one you must locate. The best way to do this is to identify all the bottlenecks, then working backwards to work out what is really causing all the issues.

Then you can develop a solution to the problems you find. Here are a few ways that will help you identify and eliminate any manufacturing bottlenecks.

But first, what is a bottleneck?

A bottleneck is generally classified as the time when a stage in an operation receives more requests than it can deal with. This causes delays in all subsequent processes, which in turn limits the total capacity of the line.

This means that one little bottleneck could end up costing a business a lot of money, not to mention potential damage to the firms’ reputation and future sales. With is this in mind, it’s little wonder that their identification and removal is of the highest priority.

The two main types of manufacturing bottlenecks

Short term bottlenecks are temporary issues that can often be easily and quickly resolved. Their overall effect depends on when they occur. Some can have little or no repercussions, whilst others can have major if short term effects.

An example of a short term blockage is when a machine breaks down or where it needs unforeseen maintenance. This sort of stoppage can be mitigated through the use of ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems, as these allow many such instances to be foreseen.

Long term bottlenecks are a very different matter, it being very likely that they could bring a production floor to a full stop. Such issues are often very persistent, causing regular interruptions and delays.

One example of a long term bottleneck is where an inefficient machine causes long queues to build up.

The effects of such stoppages can be far-reaching, as they can lead to additional pressures being placed on the production department, causing them to struggle to ensure that the most urgent orders are delivered on time.

The signs of a manufacturing bottleneck

These are often easy to see, machine and staff being idle on the production line, while at the same time orders are not going out as fast as they should.

How to locate a bottleneck

Locating a bottleneck is easier when you understand all the processes involved. But before you can do this, you have to fully map the entire production line. This can take a lot of time. However, the benefits are immense as they will highlight whether the processes are indeed genuinely logical and methodical.

The next step is to check on how much time each machine is being used, the same going for all the work centres and resources in the line. Bottlenecks are more than often caused when such machines and resources are being used to the largest percentages. Those with lower percentages are more likely to be the ones affected by the bottlenecks, not the cause.

There is another way, potentially simpler, this being to find the machine with the highest downtime, the blockage being the preceding step.

In a similar vein, checking the line to find where queues of products are occurring will again identify where everything slows down.

Fixing the bottlenecks in your production line

Once identified, bottlenecks are normally easily fixed, perhaps this will mean a new machine or the retraining of staff. Whatever the solution, once it is implemented, things should return to normal and your line should run smoothly and at maximum effectiveness.

However, other bottlenecks are more than likely to occur and cause further problems, this makes it necessary to put systems into place so that they can be found and fixed before they make a big impact.

This is where firms that provide solutions to engineering problems come into the equation, companies like Sandfield Engineering in the UK. So, if you are running a production line of any size, or are worried that there are hidden problems in your operations, then do check this firm out. They have a track record of coming up with solutions and could really help your business thrive.