What does PC bottleneck mean

What is a bottleneck and how do you deal with it?

When was the last time your team delivered a product on time? Without delays or overtime on the part of your team members, of course.

Process bottlenecks are a reason for delayed projects, budgets that have burst due to additional costs and simply unpredictable processes.

Instead of fighting the symptoms, managers only need a simple bottleneck analysis and a range of preventive measures to save the day.

In this article, you will learn how to use Kanban and Lean to identify and analyze bottlenecks in processes in order to establish a predictable workflow and take control.

What is a bottleneck?

In its simplest definition, a process bottleneck is a phase of work that receives more work requests than it can handle with its maximum throughput capacity. This leads to an interruption in the workflow and delays in the entire production process.

In other words, even if this work phase is running at its maximum capacity, it still cannot process all work items quickly enough to move them to the next phases without delay.

The workflow bottleneck can be a computer, a person, a department or an entire work phase. Typical examples of bottlenecks in knowledge work are the software test and quality inspection processes.

Unfortunately, a bottleneck is often only recognized when it has blocked the workflow.

In Lean Management and Kanban there are simple but effective analysis tools with which you can both avoid work congestion and identify an existing bottleneck.

How do you recognize a workflow bottleneck?

If you find that your workflow is unpredictable and running in bursts rather than smoothly, you are at a bottleneck somewhere.

The real problem is locating it and taking appropriate countermeasure. To identify bottlenecks, you can use several Kanban bottleneck analysis tools in Lean Management.

How to identify a bottleneck in 3 steps:

  1. Visualize. If you follow your work in the form of task cards on a Kanban board, you can easily see where work tasks are piling up. This is a strong indication of a problem, most likely a bottleneck.
  2. Map queues and activities. If we separate queues and activities and map them on the Kanban board, we can see how much time our work waits in a queue before a certain activity. If this queue is growing significantly faster than the processes in the activity phase, you have found your bottleneck.
  3. Measure cycle time per phase.By measuring the cycle time at each stage, you can create a cycle time heat map. A quick look at this diagram shows the stages cards spend the most time in. If these workflow stages are queues too, you probably have your bottlenecks.

What now? How do you deal with a bottleneck?

Sometimes you can easily fix the bottleneck by allocating more resources or people to that phase of work or process. For example, you could streamline the production flow with another QA tester.

But what if the bottleneck requires a particularly scarce resource or expertise that is difficult to find? In some cases, the cost of solving the bottleneck can be too high.

Failure to address a bottleneck will always cost you more than fixing it.

Then what should you do next?

You should take these measures to contain the bottleneck:

  • Never let the bottleneck "run empty". Due to the ripple effect that affects the rest of the flow, the bottleneck process should always be used to full capacity.
  • Reduce the extent of the bottleneck. Make sure the work arrives at its best. If your review process is a bottleneck, make sure quality is considered from the start. The work to be checked must be free of errors; every mistake the reviewer finds costs you more time and money.
  • Manage WIP limits. If the limits for ongoing work in the bottleneck are quite generous and there is a lot of switching between tasks, you should lower the WIP limit. If there is no WIP limit, consider setting one.
  • Do the work in batches. Some tasks will take less time if you organize similar work items in batches. But be careful: the bigger the stack, the higher the risk. The rule of thumb is that a smaller stack is always better, but in practice we sometimes have to compromise.
  • Add more people and resources. If possible, increase the capacity of the bottleneck to speed up the whole process. Keep your eyes peeled, however: as soon as the resources in the system are redistributed, another bottleneck will appear elsewhere in the system.

Continuous bottleneck analysis with Kanban

The key to a good and productive flow is the absolutely minimal disruption to the process. The work must flow freely and only be conducted by the pull current.

According to the concept of continuous improvement in lean management, the bottleneck analysis should also be a continuous process.

In modern, ever-changing markets, you need to check the workflow every time the relative equilibrium in the production system is upset. You need to look to see if any new bottlenecks have emerged and what needs to be done to reduce their impact.

With Kanban workflows and lean bottleneck analysis tools, you can get your work under control and make your flow more predictable than ever before.

In summary

If your team is constantly stressed, delivery dates are regularly missed and work never really flows, you should conduct a bottleneck analysis. Fortunately, Lean Management combined with Kanban tools enables you to quickly identify and resolve bottlenecks.

  • Map your process and workflow visually to identify bottlenecks.
  • Measure flow metrics at the system level for a better overview.
  • Adjust resource allocation to address simple bottlenecks.
  • Keep the workflow stable and predictable through continuous bottleneck analysis.