The occurrence of bottlenecks is a common challenge in the manufacturing industry. According to a survey conducted by Globalise, nearly half (49.54%) of top executives have reported significant impact on their company due to bottlenecks. Despite having efficient production processes, bottlenecks can still occur and result in decreased average production output, extended manufacturing time and elevated costs. It is important to note that bottlenecks are often just a warning sign of a deeper issue within the production process. Identifying the bottleneck is the initial step towards uncovering the root cause of the problem.
In this blog, we will discuss:
- What do we mean by bottlenecks and what are the causes of bottlenecks?
- 6 Strategies to identify bottlenecks in manufacturing
- How can you debottleneck your manufacturing business?
- Role of ERP software in preventing bottlenecks.
Table of Contents
What do we mean by Bottlenecks and what are the Causes of Bottlenecks?
A manufacturing bottleneck occurs when the amount of upstream work coming in batches or on a production line is more than what it can manage. This hinders the complete capacity of the production line and creates delays in subsequent phases.
Manufacturing bottlenecks often fall into two categories:
- Short-Term Bottleneck: Although it is only a short-term problem with a rapid fix, depending on when it happens, it may have minor to major effects. A machine breaking down or needing repair, an employee being absent due to a holiday or sickness, or a vendor delivering late are typical examples of this.
- Long-term Bottleneck: A long-term bottleneck is a completely different situation that can impact all output in your manufacturing plant. These frequently result in production process halts or delays since they are recurring issues. Some examples of these include inefficient machines that result in prolonged queues, extended manufacturing floor downtime owing to longer lead times, delays in moving designs into the MRP stage, or a stockpile of products for tasks that are currently being worked on.
Thus, bottlenecks in manufacturing place enormous strain on a manufacturing department, resulting in backlogs and leaving the workforce in a state of flux as they strive to meet the most pressing orders on time. This means companies must identify and fix these bottlenecks for production operations to function properly.
6 Strategies to Identify Bottlenecks in Manufacturing
Identifying the manufacturing bottlenecks can help in streamlining the entire production activity before its consequences do actual damage to your processes, workforce, and clientele. Follow these strategies to learn how to identify bottlenecks in your manufacturing operations:
1. Design a Process Map
Visualize your manufacturing process, say in the form of a flow chart, to determine where activities are piling up into a backlog. This mapping process might take time, but it provides you with the opportunity to identify bottlenecks and the chance to introduce more efficient and productive techniques.
2. Seek Accumulations
Accumulation arises if an item’s input occurs more quickly than a particular process can handle it. Your manufacturing line’s point of highest accumulation is probably a bottleneck that requires improvement, particularly when individual products are handled sequentially.
3. Modify Throughput
A manufacturing line’s throughput is closely correlated with the output of the machine at the bottleneck. This property allows manufacturers to identify the bottleneck in the underlying manufacturing process. The throughput is constrained by the bottleneck, therefore an increase in a machine’s output has little effect on production as a whole. The machine that has the greatest impact on the entire output is the bottleneck when you modify the throughput of each one of your machines individually.
4. Maximum Capacity
Most manufacturers also track the capacity of each machine in addition to monitoring production. According to an approach, often known as the “Theory of Constraints” or “TOC,” the machine that works at the maximum capacity generally results in the lower capacity operation of other machines and is thereby bottlenecking other machinery and equipment.
5. Examine Wait Times
It is a very easy strategy to use to locate a production bottleneck. When a workstation has a long wait time, the bottleneck is at the point before it, because it takes too long for it to complete an operation, which slows down the rest of the production.
6. Applying the ‘5 Whys’ Technique
A more thorough problem-solving method is the five whys method. You begin by outlining the issue you’re trying to solve. You then question yourself, going backward, why this issue is occurring. Ask “Why?” repeatedly at each stage until you discover the root cause. You should be able to identify the bottleneck’s root cause by the fifth layer down.
How can you Debottleneck your Manufacturing Business?
Once the bottlenecks have been identified, the debottlenecking process can begin. It probably won’t be possible to eliminate every bottleneck in the production process, as much as we might wish to think otherwise. However, it is important to be aware of your areas of manufacturing weakness. Here are some of the top techniques for debottlenecking your manufacturing processes
1. Resource Redistribution
Rearranging the structure of your manufacturing floor or simply allocating extra resources to the production bottleneck might solve the problem quickly. When the demand is strong, increasing the bottleneck’s capacity (by adding more personnel or equipment), could enable the workstation to keep up with the backlog.
2. Limit idle capacity/Downtime
Try to maintain a fully loaded stage on the bottleneck. A bottleneck that slows production does not solve the issue; rather, it encourages lower output.
3. Work in Batches
If you organize similar work items together in small batches, some processes will move quickly. Higher risk is associated with larger batch sizes.
4. Automating Business Processes
Finally, managing bottlenecks is a constant effort, as it has already been highlighted multiple times. Automation in the form of manufacturing machines or Manufacturing Process Management software will simplify the process of monitoring the production flow, detecting bottlenecks, and making the required adjustments to resolve them.
Role of ERP Software in Preventing Bottlenecks
Preventing bottlenecks from occurring in the first place is the best method to handle them. However, it is impractical to identify and address bottlenecks manually. The good thing is that there are other viable options like an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Software Solution for Manufacturing.
According to a TEC report, manufacturing companies are the most common users of ERP software. An ERP for manufacturing industry can improve organizational efficiency by regulating and optimizing how business resources are utilized. Manufacturing companies can use an ERP to handle all essential components, from shop floor activities to supply chain and inventory management. With precise and real-time production planning, greater inventory control, and synchronization across numerous distribution networks, manufacturers can reduce time to market, and deliver products on time and more easily. When it comes to preventing bottlenecks in the manufacturing sector, here are the top 3 ways an ERP for Manufacturing companies can prevent bottlenecks:
1. Inventory Traceability
With the use of the inventory traceability function of a manufacturing software ERP, the product-picking process can be automated and simplified to minimize excessive congestion at the pick-up locations and thereby eliminate bottlenecks. This feature also prevents products from being used out of rotation or in the wrong order and provides real-time information on the expiry dates of items to track those that have already expired as well as those that are about to expire.
2. Warehouse Management Functionality
The warehouse management module of an ERP manufacturing software enables you to monitor employee productivity in warehouse operations to evaluate whether your floor layout can also be improved for productivity and employee well-being.
The modules remove the non-value-added components or improper placement of items that may cause a bottleneck and ensure that complementary materials and frequently used items are grouped together and in easily accessible locations.
3. Minimizes Downtime
According to Deloitte, downtime costs manufacturers about $50 billion per year. While a few minutes of downtime may not seem like a real concern, it can mount up to a bottleneck. Cloud-based ERP systems for Manufacturing help you reduce downtime by allowing you to monitor upgrades and maintenance, and automate the scheduling of processes in a system.
If your manufacturing company is experiencing bottlenecks that prohibit you from completing one process and initiating another, then maybe it’s time to implement automation and reduce some of those bottlenecks using an ERP for manufacturers.
We’ve just scratched the surface in this blog on how ERP technology can help you streamline and improve your manufacturing operations by eliminating bottlenecks and optimizing production uptime. There are many more benefits when a Manufacturing focused ERP is deployed. EPICOR Cloud ERP Solution is an excellent platform for any Manufacturing industry.
EPICOR Manufacturing ERP Software provides seamless integrations with shopfloor devices as well as IoT technologies to transport data directly into the system, enhancing visibility and control. It is a complete solution for automating numerous business operations and is geared to assist the production process of all manufacturing industries with modules such as Configure to Order, Make to Order, and Engineer to Order.
Interested to learn more about how Epicor ERP may benefit your business’s bottom line by minimizing the negative impacts of manufacturing bottlenecks? Contact us.