To succeed, a business needs to function to the best of its ability, with as little downtime and delays as possible.
Workflow bottlenecks can cause significant losses of time, resources and efficiency, resulting in missed deadlines, extra costs and diminished customer confidence.
What is a bottleneck?
A bottleneck is a setback or obstacle that slows or delays a process, similar to how the neck of a bottle restricts the flow of water.
These occur when demand outweighs capacity.
These can be caused by any number of things, such as out-of-date equipment, difficult customers, and inefficient workers.
Identifying and fixing these problems is crucial to improving productivity, cutting down on lost revenue, and more importantly preventing similar problems from occurring in the future.
Using process mapping to identify bottlenecks
If you suspect a process has one or several bottlenecks – then your next step is to find them.
Process mapping looks at every step of the workflow, allowing us to analyse whether everything is working the way it should.
This makes it easier to find existing or potential bottlenecks within a workflow.
A flowchart is a process map that shows the steps of work activity, along with the people carrying out each step.
Each step in the chart should include the expected amount of time it should take to complete them; if a step takes longer than expected, or has a smaller output than expected, you have found your bottleneck.
Performing an audit at least once a year is essential to keeping your workflow optimised and dramatically reduce the risk of bottlenecks.
Audits ensure that the workflow is up to date, including any new team members, process changes or changes to equipment, as well as adding any roles or processes that were created after the previous audit.
Make a list of ideal outcomes, and a list of areas in which they are not being achieved. Whatever goal you set should be the benchmark for your audit. For example, your goal for the audit could be “new orders should be scheduled for production within 24 hours of receipt”.
Map Out Complex Workflows
If you have complex workflows that overlap, it’s worth mapping them out to check for potential bottlenecks.
A bottleneck in one workflow may be caused by a process in a separate, related workflow.
Define All Roles
For a workflow model to be most effective, all roles must be defined and clarified for every step.
Each worker should know what they are responsible for, how long their processes should take, and who is next in the chain once those responsibilities are fulfilled.
Explicitly stating what each person should be doing also helps to ensure that no steps have been missed out.
Unblocking existing bottlenecks with process mapping
Once you have created your flowchart and performed a workflow audit, you should know where your bottlenecks are.
There are two options for unblocking a bottleneck:
- Increase the efficiency of the problem step – This could include updating equipment or software used in the process or using automation to replace worker based bottlenecks.
- Decrease input to the problem step – Are all the steps completely necessary, or can some be removed altogether? Reducing the number of tasks that lead to the problem step or removing the step altogether could solve this problem.
Process mapping is crucial to any business wanting to avoid delays and up efficiency. If you would like to talk to us about process mapping, get in touch.