(SHORT NOTES FROM PROBLEM SOLVING SKILLS:
Improving Business Processes at http://www.mindtools.com)
What is a Bottleneck?
A bottleneck in a process occurs when input comes in faster than the next step can use it to create output.
There are two main types of bottlenecks:
· Short-term bottlenecks – These are caused by temporary problems.
· Long-term bottlenecks – These occur all the time.
Identifying and fixing bottlenecks is highly important. They can cause a lot of problems in terms of lost revenue, dissatisfied customers, wasted time, poor-quality products or services, and high stress in team members.
Signs of bottlenecks:
· Long wait times
· Backlogged work
· High stress levels.
Two tools are useful in helping to identify bottlenecks:
1. Flow Charts
· to help identify where bottlenecks are occurring
· break down a system by detailing every step in the process in an easy-to-follow diagrammatic flow
· much easier to see where there might be a problem
2. The Five Whys Technique
· identify the problem to address
· working backward, ask why the problem is occurring
· Keep asking "Why?" at each step, until the root cause is reached
· Bottlenecks can cause major problems for any company, and identifying their root causes is critical.
· Look for the typical signs of bottlenecks – such as backlogged work, waiting (by people, materials, or paperwork), and high stress relating to a task or process.
· To make sure you identify the root cause (and not just one of the effects), use a Flow Chart or the Five Whys technique.