What We Have Covered in This Article
- 1 The Metaphorical Basis for the Term “Bottleneck”
- 2 Sharable and Collaborative Charts
- 3 ERP Platforms
- 4 AI and Automation
- 5 Technology to the Rescue
Last Updated on July 1, 2022 by Editor Futurescope
Understanding what bottlenecks are and what causes them can go a very long way toward preventing them. In simple terms, a bottleneck is a point in a process where something is unavailable to keep the flow going. In manufacturing, for example, it could be a point in the production line where materials needed for the next step are inaccessible. However, manufacturing isn’t the only industry or process that can come to a complete halt due to a bottleneck and if you’ve ever experienced one that brought an entire organization to a halt, you’d understand just how important it is to prevent them before the damage can be done. In today’s hi-tech business environment, technology can be the simplest and most efficient way of preventing them.
The Metaphorical Basis for the Term “Bottleneck”
If you think of a bottle for just a moment you will see the analogy. A bottle is wide at the base and narrow at the neck for ease of pouring. Unlike a jar that has a wide mouth, a bottleneck is quite narrow and if the contents lump up, they are unable to pass through the narrow opening. That’s exactly what happens in a production or business environment. In fact, by using a Gantt chart it is possible to clearly see the point at where a process hits a bottleneck. You will see clearly where the break occurred. Something prevents every process before from passing through the metaphorical narrow neck to the next process necessary for the completion of the task.
It could be materials that are defective, a breakdown in equipment, or even a break in the supply chain creating a halt to an otherwise smooth process. While humans can be responsible for preventing bottlenecks, technology has proven to be much more efficient.
Sharable and Collaborative Charts
Let’s talk about that Gantt chart mentioned above for just a moment. One of the most effective ways of using technology to prevent bottlenecks is with the use of a Gantt chart. These consist of a horizontal line of processes within a project. They are drawn up, usually from a template on a computer, and then made digitally available to any person or team responsible for one or more of the processes.
It is an amazing way to prevent a bottleneck in that processes can be documented as they are begun and completed so that the next team begins organizing their work as it will soon be their process. They are fast and efficient because everything is done on a computer and made available, most often in the cloud where they can be viewed and accessed by anyone who is part of the collaborative project.
Another amazing technology that can prevent bottlenecks is an ERP platform. This is an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) platform that enables businesses to manage everything from daily activities to projects underway. An ERP helps keep track of stock and order any materials needed for projects currently or soon-to-be underway.
Consider for just a moment a different type of bottleneck. What would happen if workers were scheduled for the first three or four steps in a project, but the final task didn’t have sufficient staff scheduled to handle the workload?
That would, in effect, create a bottleneck due to insufficient workers to handle the next process. In production, that could create a huge delay in the completion of an order, but one which could be avoided with an ERP platform. Bear in mind that employees are one of your key resources!
AI and Automation
AI and automation are amazing technologies within warehousing. There was a time when warehouse managers walked around with a clipboard to take a manual inventory. With advances in Artificial Intelligence and Automation, stock and materials can be automatically ordered from suppliers as the inventory gets low. Once parameters are set, the software is set to reorder at specific levels. Every time a new project is set to begin, the parameters for inventory are set and as they get near the trigger point, the software automatically submits a new order. Bottlenecks due to lack of materials are avoided because of advances in warehouse AI and automation.
Technology to the Rescue
Remember, anything that holds up a project, preventing it from going to the next stage, can be considered a bottleneck. Whether it’s in manufacturing or any other business process, if there are insufficient supplies or workers to complete the next stage, everything collects right there until the next process has what is needed to complete that stage. It’s amazing just how useful technology is because it doesn’t forget! You will not hear an automated ordering platform apologizing for forgetting to submit an order. Once a Gantt chart is created and distributed, there’s no passing the buck.
Technology doesn’t lie and it doesn’t forget. If you want to prevent bottlenecks, technology can be the insurance you need.