Bottlenecks: Identifying What’s Slowing Down a Process

LEANHave you ever worked on a project that was moving along well when—seemingly out of the blue—you started seeing delays and your stress levels went up? This may have been caused by a bottleneck.


What is a bottleneck?

A bottleneck is a point of decreased efficiency that occurs when the input comes in faster than the next step can use it to create output. This concept gets its name from the neck of a bottle—when the neck is wide, the water inside flows out quickly, but when the neck is narrow, the water gets backed up and comes out more slowly. The water is like our company’s information, materials and labor, and the narrow neck is any obstacle causing delays in a project.


How to identify and fix a bottleneck

Reducing or eliminating bottlenecks is essential in improving any process, but identifying them is not always easy. Look for routines in your day that typically cause stress, frustration, waiting or delays. For “short-term” bottlenecks, which are caused by temporary problems, you may need to level out the workload, cross-train or create better lead times for the bottleneck step. “Long-term” bottlenecks may require reducing the input, improving the bottleneck step, or modifying the overall process.


Start looking for areas that may be bottlenecks for you, and keep making improvements to make LEAN part of your daily routine !


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About Bryan Decker


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Bryan decker is the LEAN champion at McKenney's. He started his 12-year career in the U.S. Army in 1992, during which he was part of the Army Aviation Logistics team. In 2004, he transitioned to a civilian logistics role for Target Corp. Since then, Bryan has worked to optimize operations and supply chains through continuous improvement and LEAN principles.

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