Bottlenecks in Manufacturing – How to Solve Them in 2024?

January 4, 2024 · 7 minutes
By Tina
Share this article

Embark on an enlightening expedition into manufacturing process enhancement, where the thin line between triumph and defeat often hinges on a singular juncture within the production sequence.  

This guide will take you on a journey through the fascinating and sometimes frustrating world of bottlenecks in manufacturing. 

By the end of this guide, you’ll have a comprehensive understanding of what bottlenecks are, what causes them, how to solve them, and how to prevent them from happening in the first place. 

So, buckle up and get ready to dive into the world of manufacturing bottlenecks!

What are bottlenecks in manufacturing?

A bottleneck in manufacturing is a point in the production process that slows down the overall production of a good.

It’s like a traffic jam on a highway, where a single point of congestion slows down the flow of cars (or, in our case, products). Such obstructions can profoundly influence manufacturing and sharply increase the time and costs associated with production.

What causes bottlenecks in manufacturing?

Bottlenecks can occur due to various factors. These include outdated or faulty machinery, inefficient work processes, an unskilled workforce, or material shortages. 

Essentially, any factor that hampers or decelerates the transit of materials, goods, or information, thereby inducing lags in the entire manufacturing sequence, causes a bottleneck.

Prominent sources of bottlenecks include:

  • Subpar Maintenance Planning occurs when machinery cannot meet demand due to technical issues or incapacity to function at the needed velocity.
  • Inefficient Processes arise when specific workflows or procedures are ineffective, leading to production delays.
  • Deficiency of Skilled Labor is attributable to a shortage of more proficient workers, elevated staff turnover, or scheduling complications.
  • Inadequate Quality Control manifests when errors in manufacturing remain undetected, necessitating additional work on or disposal of the produced goods.
  • Constrained Capacity emerges when labor is insufficient to satisfy demand.

Now that we’ve identified the common causes of bottlenecks, let’s move on to how to solve them.

How do you solve bottlenecks in manufacturing?

Bottlenecks in manufacturing are solved by pinpointing the root of the issue and implementing measures to mitigate it. 

Strategies include circumventing downtimes, subcontracting, employing alternative manufacturing apparatus, diminishing rejects in producing bottleneck components, fulfilling only the genuine demand, and adjusting batch sizes.

Solving bottlenecks in manufacturing involves a systematic multi-step process:

  1. STEP 1- Identify the bottleneck
    The initial step is to locate the bottleneck, which can be achieved through careful observation of the manufacturing process or by employing analytical tools to pinpoint inefficiency hotspots.
  2. STEP 2 – Analyze the bottleneck
    Once the bottleneck has been identified, it’s important to analyze why it’s occurring. Dissect the bottleneck to comprehend its underlying cause, whether it be obsolete machinery, inefficient workflows, or material shortages.
  3. STEP 3 – Develop a plan
    Post-analysis, formulate a strategy to tackle the bottleneck, potentially involving machinery upgrades, workflow redesign, or enhanced forecasting methods to guarantee material availability.
  4. STEP 4 – Implement the plan
    Once a plan has been developed, it’s time to implement it. This implementation may entail physical alterations to the manufacturing process or introducing new software or tools to boost efficiency.
  5. STEP 5 – Monitor the results
    Following implementation, observing the outcomes is imperative to confirm the bottleneck has been effectively resolved. Should the bottleneck persist, revisiting and refining the plan may be necessary.

How to identify Bottlenecks in manufacturing?

Identifying bottlenecks in manufacturing is a crucial step in improving efficiency. Bottlenecks can be identified through careful observation of the manufacturing process or using analytics tools to help pinpoint areas of inefficiency.

Bottleneck analysis is a technique that examines each phase of the manufacturing process to locate where delays transpire. This could be a machine operating sluggishly or prone to malfunctions, a process step that necessitates manual intervention, or a juncture where materials are consistently unavailable.

Once potential bottlenecks are identified, it’s crucial to analyze their causes, which may involve reviewing machine maintenance logs, scrutinizing workflows, or examining supply chain data for material availability issues. Understanding the cause of the bottleneck is instrumental in devising an effective solution.

What are the types of bottlenecks in manufacturing?

Manufacturing bottlenecks can be classified into two primary categories: short-term and long-term. Short-term bottlenecks are brief and typically stem from transient conditions such as employee absences or machine breakdowns. 

Conversely, long-term bottlenecks are ingrained in the production process and may include inefficient workflows or outdated machinery.

With the types of bottlenecks outlined, let’s examine a tangible instance of a bottleneck in the manufacturing sector.

What is a real-life example of a bottleneck in manufacturing?

One amazing real-life example of a non-fictional company that faced bottlenecks in production is Intel, a leading technology company known for its semiconductor chips.

In the late 1990s, Intel faced a significant bottleneck in its manufacturing process. The company was experiencing a surge in demand for its Pentium chips, but its manufacturing facilities couldn’t keep up.

The bottleneck was primarily due to the complex and time-consuming chip fabrication process, which involved hundreds of steps and required precise control over numerous variables.

This complexity, combined with the high demand, led to delays in production, excess inventory, and, ultimately, a negative impact on Intel’s business and customer relationships.

Intel’s Solution to the Bottleneck Problem

To address this bottleneck, Intel implemented a strategy known as “Copy Exactly!” This strategy involved standardizing every aspect of the manufacturing process across all of Intel’s facilities.

Intel’s goal was to ensure that every factory used the same equipment, materials, and processes, Doing this, Intel increased its production capacity and reduced variability, one of the leading causes of the bottleneck.

Implementing the “Copy Exactly!” strategy was a significant undertaking. It required extensive training for Intel’s employees and substantial investments in new equipment and materials. However, the results were impressive.

Eliminating the variability that had been causing delays in the production process, enabled Intel to increase its output of Pentium chips significantly.

Results of the Implementation

The “Copy Exactly!” strategy was highly successful. It allowed Intel to meet the growing demand for its Pentium chips and regain its competitive edge in the market.

Moreover, by standardizing its manufacturing processes, Intel improved the quality of its products, further enhancing its reputation and customer satisfaction.

Today, the “Copy Exactly!” strategy is considered a best practice in the semiconductor industry and has been adopted by many other companies.

What are the Best Strategies for Resolving Bottlenecks in Manufacturing?

Several strategies can be used to address and resolve bottlenecks in manufacturing effectively. Remember, the essence of managing bottlenecks lies in early detection, comprehending their causes, and executing efficacious solutions. 

Here are some of the best strategies for resolving bottlenecks in manufacturing:

  1. Enhance process efficiency by investing in reengineering workflows, modernizing machinery, or deploying new software or tools to augment efficiency.
  2. Boost labor efficiency by training personnel, refining labor scheduling, or incorporating automation to minimize manual input.
  3. Optimize material management leveraging better forecasting to ensure material availability, enhancing material storage methods, or collaborating with suppliers for dependable delivery.
  4. Implement an Order Release Mechanism (ORM) as demonstrated in the case study by John Geraghty and Cathal Heavey, an ORM can be a potent means to diminish bottlenecks.
  5. Implement ongoing monitoring and refinement initiatives. After enacting changes, it’s vital to monitor the results and make further adjustments as needed persistently. This ensures that bottlenecks are effectively resolved and do not recur.

Integrating these approaches in your production process, will help you navigate and successfully resolve any bottlenecks in your manufacturing processes.

Now let’s dive into the modern approach to bottlenecks, and how AI revolutionizes manufacturing. 

How can AI-based technologies help eliminate bottlenecks in manufacturing?

AI-based technologies can play a significant role in eliminating bottlenecks in manufacturing. They can help identify bottlenecks by analyzing manufacturing process data and predicting where bottlenecks are likely to occur.

AI can also suggest solutions to eliminate these bottlenecks, such as offering optimal production schedules or identifying areas where automation can improve efficiency.

In addition, AI technologies can help forecast demand more accurately, preventing bottlenecks caused by overproduction or underproduction. Leveraging AI enables manufacturers to optimize their production process, reduce waste, and increase efficiency, leading to higher profitability.

Now that you understand how bottlenecks in manufacturing occur and how we can prevent them or resolve them as they happen, you’re well-equipped to tackle any bottleneck that comes your way.

Eliminating Bottlenecks with ThroughPut 

AI-driven data analytics are changing the way bottlenecks are being handled across the globe. By 2020, 50% of global supply chains will utilize AI-powered advanced analytics.  

With real-time visibility to production status and performance indicators, plant managers can flag bottlenecks early so they can be resolved with minimal impact.

Using powerful AI-driven supply chain technologies, plant managers can eliminate the ever-shifting bottlenecks and benefit in multiple ways:

  • Slash down inventory costs
  • Cut down lead time predictability 
  • Reduce maintenance frequency 
  • Accelerate time to insight 

ThroughPut’s ELI – Supply chain management software helps plant managers breakthrough the stubborn bottlenecks that limit unprecedented output, productivity, and growth. All of this using existing equipment data.

Explore how ThroughPut can make a difference to your manufacturing process. Talk to the experts and book your demo.

Share this article