Bottlenecks refer to operations that constrain a site’s ability to meet production demand within a planned schedule. They are also notoriously difficult to pinpoint. It’s easy to make assumptions about where constraints are taking place – or even what’s causing them – but unfortunately, speculations often lead to wasted time, money, and effort. While merely locating a constraint can bring about positive impact, conducting thorough bottleneck analysis has far-reaching implications within organizations, leading to higher efficiency, lower costs, and reduced waste.
Bottleneck analysis automatically identifies top constraint priorities on your factory site, allowing you to uncover opportunities to dramatically increase efficiency. The goal is to pinpoint your top few issues easily and automatically—so that you can systematically surface critical root causes and fix them permanently.
Bottleneck analysis can instigate a paradigm shift across your factories by helping you:
To identify a bottleneck, you must look at the entire manufacturing process, paying special attention to changeovers and other transitory stages. It is also important to analyze aspects of production you might not have hard data on, such as labor and training. PTC’s bottleneck analysis tool automates the bottleneck identification process, which might otherwise be a time-intensive, manual project. By consolidating the analysis around a single unit of measurement, such as time, the results can be universally understood and implemented on a company-wide basis.
By implementing bottleneck analysis, you’re doing more than just identifying your top constraints. The effects of bottleneck analysis reach many aspects of the organization and can make a significant financial impact.
Bottleneck analysis can reduce waste by helping create a more seamless and efficient manufacturing environment. It can help rein in the additional time, money, and effort spent on the process due to the constraint in the first place.
Bottleneck analysis gives teams across the organizations visibility into the manufacturing process. By understanding the root causes of a bottleneck, teams can work on existing bottlenecks while also bettering their production processes moving forward.
Making a quick fix on a bottleneck might temporarily solve the problem, but there’s a high chance it’ll repeat sooner rather than later. Instead of using a band-aid solution, teams can dig deeper to get to the bottom of their manufacturing constraints. The better teams understand the root causes of their bottlenecks, the more they can do to prevent them in the future – saving them time and money in the process.
Production bottlenecks come in many shapes and sizes and can change by the day. A pressing bottleneck can quickly shift into a less urgent constraint in a matter of minutes. It’s important to remember the evolutionary nature of bottlenecks once you set out to analyze them.
A lack of skilled workers can bring production processes to a halt. Providing frontline workers with thorough training can help ensure they have all the skills they need to perform their jobs effectively. Educating workers on key topics such as quality control, digital transformation, and machine operation are all ways to ensure the skill level of workers themselves is not your primary bottleneck.
Monitoring production on your manufacturing floor by hand can be a labor- and time-intensive process. Human error, inadequate training, an aging workforce, and other priorities can lead to bottlenecks while assessing production. Real-time visibility into how your products, processes, and people function is key to improving safety, efficiency, service, compliance, and downtime. Using real-time data to resolve bottlenecks and optimize workflows can result in:
Manual change orders are often a time-consuming process. The changes implemented might have a staggered arrival at machines, causing delays and confusion among workers. Standardizing the production process can further integrate workers and alleviate bottlenecks due to change order implementation.
Preventative maintenance occurs at regular intervals based on the machine’s lifecycle, regardless of usage, to ensure that no issues emerge. For preventative maintenance, the only variable used to predict failure is the span of time since maintenance was previously conducted. Since this model does not factor in any conditions unique to your specific piece of machinery – such as how long it has been in use and previous system failures – it can often act as a bottleneck. Preventative maintenance, and all the associated costs and downtime that come with it, happen whether a machine needs it or not (and still might miss the mark when it comes to predicting system failure).
The TOC – a methodology commonly used for identifying and working to eliminate a bottleneck – can often unlock increased efficiency and profitability for organizations. The TOC is made up of five steps:
DMAIC, one of the core tools used to drive Six Sigma projects, helps optimize business processes. It is broken down into the following components:
Root-cause analysis, the process of determining the underlying causes of bottlenecks to identify the most effective solutions, can bring about a first-time fix rate of over 90%. Remote root-cause analysis ensures technicians will arrive onsite with the correct tools and parts to solve customer problems in a single visit.
The 5S framework prioritizes a clean and safe workplace to boost efficiency and reduce waste. The methodology is dependent on five pillars:
Value stream mapping, often used in lean manufacturing, is the practice of making a visual guide of all the information and materials necessary to complete the manufacturing process. It can help teams further optimize their process by visualizing where bottlenecks take place. Value stream mapping helps eliminate bottlenecks and waste and paves the way for continuous improvement by focusing on future advancements.
Takt time is the rate at which a manufacturer must assemble a product to meet customer demand. This is calculated by dividing the available production time by customer demand. Understanding takt time can help align your manufacturing process with customer demand by optimizing the pace of production. Teams that implement takt time often identify their bottlenecks with ease, since areas with slower production can be pinpointed quickly. It can also simplify capacity planning and support value stream mapping efforts.
Global aerospace and defense leader implemented PTC’s ThingWorx Digital Performance Management (DPM) due to the volume and velocity of change in modern manufacturing, such as customer requirements, new regulations, and supply chain struggles. Manufacturing teams at Northrop Grumman were struggling to identify and activate capacity opportunities. While operating efficiencies often hover between 40 and 60%, best-in-class practices can approach nearly 85%. With DPM, Northrop Grumman discovered their operational availability was between 90 and 100%, representing a sea of opportunity. By looking at every bottleneck as an opportunity with real monetary value and a chance to improve OEE, the organization was able to pinpoint how and where productivity was being impeded.
DPM Bottleneck Analysis enables you to automatically identify top priority constraints in your factory while simultaneously pinpointing root causes. By understanding which constraints should be top of mind and take priority, you can better understand the root causes and work to eliminate them. Further, bottleneck analysis can ensure you are up to date on the most current crucial constraint. Since bottlenecks can evolve, it’s important to understand when and why a shift in focus is needed.
Putting DPM into action to eliminate bottlenecks in your organization
It can be confusing to sift through all the data collected on the manufacturing floor. ThingWorx DPM can help transform your high-level data for precise and real-time insights. It allows manufacturers to: