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How to Spot Bottlenecks in Your Business (And What to do About Them)

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"That's the way we've always done it." If you've been in the business world for any amount of time, you've probably heard this statement get thrown around. You know that performing certain tasks and business practices, or following established processes is not always the most efficient way to get things done. Bottlenecks form to slow up progress, divert resources, and ultimately waste money. Yet we tend to perpetuate the habit because “we’ve always done it that way”. In one particular article about bottlenecks, the author’s solution for bottlenecks was looking at new technology and simply be aware of processes slowing things down and actively pursue a way to improve them.

There you have it. Simple, right? Seems like a quick and easy way to remove bottlenecks from your business...

But it's really not that simple. Oftentimes we get a sense there is something slowing the process down, but we cannot pinpoint what it is? We intuitively know there is a way to be more efficient. Heck, we can see it in our bottom line – we are bleeding money. The real problem is we cannot accurately calculate how much money we are hemorrhaging because we do not know what, or where, the actual problem is located. It snowballs from there.

Being aware of the bottleneck is one thing – a very important start. Tackling the bottleneck is quite another thing altogether. You are already wasting money and manpower, and now you are contemplating committing more precious resources to figure out where the bottleneck is located? Add the fact that most times it is not even clear where to begin this monstrous undertaking. It is almost never as easy as spotting the bottleneck in the image above.

That is where a process improvement company can help. It may seem counter-intuitive to hire a firm from the outside who does not know the detailed inner workings of your business processes. Additionally, the decision to invest money and time for consultants to look at your processes is a difficult one. A process improvement company, though, is your best option.

Here are 3 reason why to hire a consulting company to help identify bottlenecks:

  1. We are unbiased in our approach.

    We are not married to the current process, nor are we swayed by emotional attachment. Our problem-solving technique tackles the root cause and puts blame where it belongs – the messed-up process. Because we are not part of the process, we do not have the emotional attachment to it, or the people involved with the process. We can discover where the real constraints are and attack them. For example, a particular step in the process might hold the rest of it up. Employees who are involved with the process downstream might be inclined to say that “Joe always slows us down.” Resentment against Joe and his inability to work efficiently grow. We can look at the whole process to help you realize that it is the process itself that is the problem. Joe is not set up for success. We can then help you eliminate that bottleneck and streamline the entire process.
  2. We are experts.

    We specialize in finding pesky bottlenecks that seem impossible to identify. We have years of experience and a diverse background in many organizations and industries. We use a data-driven approach that eliminates the guesswork. It should never come down to an observational hypothesis, an approach which almost certainly leads to someone chasing his or her tail. You also need to beware of the symptom-led approach. It is too easy to say that you always struggle with “x” and assume that “x” is the problem. You could end up putting a band aid over an arterial bleed. In short, getting to the root cause is the goal and it is what we do. To use another analogy, we put in the rigor to get below the surface and pull out the roots so that the weed does not grow back.
  3. We create value.

    Our goal is to eliminate the non-value-added steps and create value through the entire value stream. We accomplish this feat through reallocating resources that are currently being wasted and placing them in more advantageous positions, which improves flow. We help generate revenue and savings while “creating” time without having to acquire new customers. If we do not fix the bottleneck, we do not actually fix the process. The goal for any business is to satisfy its customers and pass value on to them. It is no different for us. We allow our customers to find added value in their process, always with their customers in mind. We create value for you so that you can create value for your customers.

Bottlenecks were intentionally designed to limit the flow of a liquid, so it does not come out too fast (think old glass soft drink bottle). In your business, you want the opposite effect. You increase value as the product or service flows through your process. There are less hangups, meaning more efficient processes, less waste, and more revenue. All of the things that make a boss or business owner thrilled to hear. If you have a bottleneck that you know is there but is hard to find, don’t be afraid to ask for help – we are here when you need us.

Written by Mike Plaisier

Mike Plaisier is a former Marine Officer. After over 11 years of military service, he transitioned to civilian life. Before joining Value Added 616, he gained a wealth of management experience in the manufacturing and supply chain world. In his free time, Mike enjoys being outdoors and spending time with his wife and three growing children.

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