preparing for potential bottlenecks in your business and supply chain
Are there red flags in your supply chain that may lead to bottlenecks? If there are, a bottleneck may impede product delivery in the new year, and that is not ideal.
So, what can prevent potential bottlenecks before they damage your company’s ability to deliver? And what is a bottleneck? It can be complicated, so let’s dive into the details.
what is a bottleneck?
A bottleneck can occur on all levels of manufacturing when resources are pushed past their maximum capacity. A bottleneck limits a company’s full potential, and is, of course, to be avoided.
As shown in the illustration below, the base of the bottle is overwhelmed and the neck of the bottle is too small for the demand of the supply chain.
As a manufacturer, there are five types of bottlenecks to be aware of:
- Poorly Designed Processes
- Employee Absences
- Overworked Machinery
- No Automation
- Poor Forecasting
These types of bottlenecks can be broken down into the categories of: People, Machines, and Processes.
As mentioned above, human error is a part of the industry. One of the main factors of bottlenecks occurring is a high amount of employee absences. The processes that are set in place to avoid equipment failure are only as strong as the number of employees that are at work. With employee absences, there is a higher chance that small errors will occur.
If people are filling in roles out of desperation, then they are not well versed in the processes in place. One way to try and avoid this is to train employees on all of the roles involved in manufacturing, in case an employee is put into a position they’re not fully comfortable performing.
Just like people, if a machine is overworked, it will not be performing at its top level of productivity. If the machinery is overworked to meet the demand, there is a high risk of a bottleneck occurring.
Although the easier choice is to push machines to their maximum capacity (or further) in order to meet a deadline, this decision is asking for trouble.
lack of automation
We live in a world of technology.
In the manufacturing industry, technology should be used to help prevent bottlenecks. Automation is sometimes included in machinery or can be externally used. Regardless, there are benefits to using automation and technology in manufacturing.
Manufacturers have used automation not only to keep track of numbers but also to identify the physical location of machinery. Another benefit of automation is that with technology comes usable data. Data collection can be a huge tool in predicting future bottlenecks and learning from past mistakes.
Automation creates a smoother process of combining people and machinery.
Although it’s true that some machine failures or bottlenecks are impossible to predict, poor forecasting can be a catalyst to missing major red flags that can disrupt your supply chain.
An example of poor forecasting is not maintaining structure in properly storing supplies and materials.
To use forecasting to your advantage, it’s helpful to predict when there might be increased demand. Then, make sure the right amount of inventory is available and that the machines can handle this level of demand to avoid a bottleneck.
poorly designed machine processes
If one part of the machine doesn’t work, the entire machine will most likely fail. If there are detailed processes laid out with preventative measures, however, there is a decreased chance of machine failure.
The efficiency of said processes can also be affected by human contact within the manufacturing line. Human error is common, so keeping employees up-to-date with understanding new machinery and processes is crucial in avoiding bottlenecks.
- Implementing preventative action to keep machinery up-to-date with industry standards
- Not letting parts function beyond their lifespan
Along with preventive measures, there is value in training employees the proper response to a machine failure that resolves the situation quickly. This can prevent bottlenecks.
red flags in your supply chain
Is there a way to see where bottlenecks might occur? Well, aside from the processes mentioned above, acknowledging that there are red flags in manufacturing is crucial.
Some red flags in your supply chain may include:
- Unpredictable lead time
- Internal reporting and delivery issues
- Slow product phase movement
- Not enough workers at one stage or another of production/ processing/ delivery
- Disorganized delivery scheduling
- Lack of product lifecycle tracking
Identifying and addressing these red flags early on can help prevent bottlenecks. When it comes to equipment failure, however, sometimes a delay is inevitable. Read on for more on how to prepare.
how to prepare for equipment failure
There is not much that can be done if major equipment failure takes place.
One key way to try and avoid equipment failure, however, is to create a diversified pool of vendors that you collaborate with. This means hiring locally, offshoring, and “near-shoring”. Doing so streamlines processes, provides backups and is one way to improve and balance your supply chain.
what do I do after a bottleneck occurs?
So, you’ve experienced a bottleneck. What now?
Bottlenecks have both short and long-term effects on a business.
After a bottleneck occurs, it’s important to evaluate what happened, why it happened, and how to avoid a similar situation in the future. The bottleneck you experience will help your company learn and grow when you look at it from the perspective of a learning opportunity.
So, you now know how to prevent a bottleneck—but do you know how to prevent a cyber-attack? Read on to learn why email may be your biggest cyber risk.