Bottlenecks are common across most businesses, but with long, complex or intertwined processes they’re not always straightforward to find and solve.
Simulation is a powerful tool for bottleneck analysis, helping identify their root cause and enabling you to experiment with process changes to resolve constraints.
Businesses often face the same issues over and over again but some might not realize that these recurring problems could be a sign of one or more bottlenecks within a process or system.
A bottleneck or constraint is something that limits the full speed or productivity of your business process flow. They are usually a result of inputs (information, materials, customers or products) arriving faster than the next step in the system can process them.
Typical examples might include a factory worker waiting for a part to arrive on an assembly line, or patients waiting for a bed to become available in an emergency department.
There are a huge range of underlying issues that can cause or contribute to business bottlenecks, the most common include:
Finding and resolving these issues is crucial. Bottlenecks aren’t only counter-productive from an output perspective, but they can have wide-ranging implications across your business.
Bottlenecks can limit output and lead to loss of revenue.
When products or services are delayed because of constraints, that extra production time becomes an additional cost. Delays in processing work can also lead to waste or items having to be reworked if they have a shelf life.
Bottlenecks can lead to employee frustration and decreased productivity.
Staff can become overwhelmed if there’s too much work to effectively handle, they're unable to work to their best ability using ineffective tools, or face constant delays and changing deadlines from elsewhere in the process.
Bottlenecks can hinder the ability to consistently deliver quality products and services.
If constraints result in slow or unreliable product or service delivery, or competitors can deal with your customer's requirements more efficiently, this could lead to decreased revenue and market share.
Bottlenecks aren't always easy to pinpoint. Most organizations have long, complex or intertwined processes spanning multiple teams, locations and suppliers, each potentially containing hidden constraints that can impact performance.
In cases where your processes don't yet exist - for example, if you're planning a new assembly site or hospital - identifying bottlenecks can be even more challenging. How do you test design concepts to ensure there aren't concealed bottlenecks, before going ahead with implementation?
Even in cases where solutions to overcome constraints might seem obvious, can you provide decision makers with evidence that investment in resources or equipment will cost-effectively fix the underlying problem?
To overcome these challenges, organizations across a diverse range of industries rely on simulation software like SIMUL8.
Why? Simulation is a uniquely powerful approach to decision making. By building and running a virtual representations of your system, similar to drawing a flowchart, you’ll be able to identify missing or unclear processes, find where resources or equipment are constraining productivity, see where queues are building up, and many other types of issues.
No matter the complexity, you can simulate any process involved in the delivery of your product or service – from raw materials or customers arriving in to your system, to global distribution centers and call centers.
By mapping out the process and building the simulation, you'll quickly get an accurate representation of how it’s really working and why bottlenecks are happening.
The key benefit of simulation is that any changes to processes can be tested in a risk-free environment, finding the right solution for resolving the underlying causes of bottlenecks before making real-life changes.
With in-depth simulation results, you'll be able to test different scenarios and measure how each change will impact your KPIs and performance.
As simulation is visual and animated, you’ll be able to see exactly where bottlenecks are building up in your process.
This visualization makes simulation a great communication tool for securing stakeholder buy-in to tackle constraints. Nothing is more effective at generating desire for change than showing decision-makers the impact of bottleneck issues playing out in front of them.