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What is a Bottleneck and How to Deal With It?

Isn’t it frustrating when you just can’t launch a project you are excited for just because of previous backlogs?  Suffering through bottlenecks is undoubtedly annoying, not to mention a bad spot in your business.  To clear your worries, this article contains techniques and tools such as Lean Management and Kanban that may help cater to bottleneck issues. However, first things first, so let’s start off with an insight into what bottlenecks really are.

What is a Bottleneck?

To put it simply, Bottlenecks are setbacks or an obstacle that hinders or delays a process. Its visual representation is very much like the way the neck of a bottle constricts the flow of liquid passing through it. Similarly, process bottlenecks are responsible for constriction in the flow of material, products, information, or even employee hours.

In knowledge related working environment, software testing, and quality review processing are typical examples of workflow bottlenecks. However, many other reasons might be behind a workflow bottleneck such as computers, department, a single person, or even a separate work stage.

Although relatively simple, bottlenecks are so much of an issue as they are hard to spot. It is only recognized once there is a visible blockage in the workflow.  So to make lives simpler, practical analysis tools that help prevent work congestion and identify bottlenecks are available such as Lean Management and Kanban.

How to detect a Workflow Bottleneck?

If you are experiencing a bumpy workflow, then you are bound to be a victim of bottleneck issues. However, the main struggle is pointing out the problem and how to deal with it.  Lean Management allows you to detect bottleneck sites through various Kanban bottleneck analysis tool.

The following three simple steps can help identify bottleneck issues:

1.    Keep track of the activities

The best way to manage things and make sure they are in proper flow is to keep a sharp track of them. This alerts whenever there is work overflow and ensures that the work goes on smoothly. Task cards available on the Kanban board allow visualizing the job efficiently.

2.    Create a flow chart of activities

When we have things adequately mapped out in the form of queues and flowcharts, thing become a lot easier to keep track on. To avoid a wholly crammed up queue, you can map out your activities on the Kanban board. This allows a bird’s eye view of your tasks. This way if you see the queue growing and the events lagging, you have your bottleneck issue identified.

3.    Measure every stage with a time frame

Measuring things against time allows items to be managed much more efficiently.  With measuring time against the cycle at every step, you can build a cycle time heat map diagram. This makes it easy to pinpoint which card is taken up most of the time. The stage that takes up most of the time is the cause of the bottleneck.

How to get rid of the Bottleneck issue?

If the tasks you are working through with is relatively simple, bottlenecks are not that hard to tackle. All they require is for you to hire some new staff or QA testers. This helps ease the workflow and eventually smooth the production flow.

The problem arises if the tasks you are going through is relatively technical and has a handful of experts willing to work on it.  In such cases the following steps might help you wiggle your way out of the conundrum:

1.    Keep a sharp track of work in progress limits

Work in progress limits is mostly a backhand in handling bottleneck issues. If the amount of context switching is high, you can simply opt to slow down the work in progress limits. However, if your tasks don’t have work in progress limits, then its better to set up one.

2.    Cut off the load on Bottleneck

The work that you provide has to be of top-notch quality. To ensure quality, the reviewing process has to be as effective as possible. However, if unfortunately, your revising process is the one facing the bottleneck issues, then it might affect the quality. The best way to avoid is to simply have a strict watch on the reviewing process and manage aa good quality from the very start of the process. This is exceptionally important as every error or issue is a load on your pocket and waste of time.

3.    Add more hands to the deck

This is the simplest way to get rid of bottleneck issues. Increasing the capacity of bottlenecks by allotting more people to the task lagging allow the flow to be reasonably smooth.  However, after the problems are resolved, it is essential to manage things more sharply to avoid a further bottleneck.

4.    Don’t leave things idle

Bottleneck processes are like a bad fish that destroys the whole pond. The ripple effect they cause disrupts at times the entire workflow even.  This is why to ensure that things go on smoothly, the process should always be crammed full to the maximum capacity.

5.    Organize the work in batches

The dividing workflow in organized groups allows an efficient and effective flow of the work. This helps cut off time and set things in order. However, to make this strategy work, it is crucial to make sure that the size of the batch you make is small. Small batches are easier to handle and better to keep track of.

Regular bottleneck analysis with Kanban

To ensure that your workflow is always smooth and productive, it is essential to keep a sharp eye for any signs of disruptions or hindrances. For this, the work you do must be entirely powered by Pull Power.

 As modern market systems are a continuous imbalance of production system, it is vital to make sure that you review the workflow appropriately.  Lean Management offers it the concept of constant improvement according to which proper bottleneck analysis should be regularity.

This way, the workflow can be healthy and manageable, and any congestions might be an easy task to clear out.  So now that you are armed with the solution, it is better to startup with Kanban workflow and Lean bottleneck analysis tool to allow the predictable flow of productions.

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