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Finding & Overcoming My First Bottleneck

When You are in a Crisis, Knowing Where to Begin is Critical!

When half of the workforce and a third of management were laid off, I had three kids in diapers and very little seniority.

After asking the plant manager if I could help avoid any additional layoffs (especially my own), he said sure, but I would have to continue to handle my normal responsibilities as well.

What to Do to Survive the Crisis?

When you find yourself in a crisis, you typically don’t know what you don’t know. Rather than jumping to solutions (which I find extreeeeemely common), the more scientific approach is to find out how the system works and what needs to change to make things better.

So, I quickly read The Goal (by Eliyahu Goldratt & Jeff Cox) & The Ultimate Improvement Cycle (by Bob Sproull). As a physicist, I related easily to the holistic approach of these two great books:

  1. Gaining insight & understanding into the system to be improved

  2. Finding what needs to change for the biggest impact

  3. How to cause the change

These two books and an engineering background gave me enough insight to make a major impact in a short time frame. The Goal provides a great introduction into the Theory of Constraints (TOC). The Ultimate Improvement Cycle explains how to skillfully combine Lean Six Sigma (LSS) with Theory of Constraints to gain the strengths and mitigate the weaknesses of Lean, Six Sigma, and TOC to make 10X more impact than typical LSS implementation. TLS is a common abbreviation for the combined methodology of TOC + LSS.

Think of TLS (Combined LSS & TOC) like combining a Grand Slam with a Slam Dunk to get a GRAND SLAM DUNK!

Finding the Constraint & Project Selection

Some might have started with finding the Voice of the Customer or Value Stream Map or some another analysis on core processes and key sub-processes and their respective metrics to determine where to focus. But we were in a crisis and needed to pinpoint our problem and start implementing a solution as soon as possible. Instead of the traditional analysis, we took some advice from Dr. Eliyahu Goldratt and TOC (Theory of Constraints).

4 Things to Identify & Verify the Constraint (aka: Bottleneck)

  1. Ask the expediters where they look first for castings that need to be expedited

  2. Look for the largest amounts of WIP (Work in Process)

  3. Check which processes are scheduled to work the most shifts & overtime

  4. Find out the processes with the most cycle time and/or operate in batches

The expediter said Heat Treatment (HT) or under a bench in the cleaning room. Next, we confirmed that large amounts of WIP accumulate prior to HT, but the amount of WIP in the cleaning room fluctuates with casting availability from HT, relative casting quality casting, & attendance. From the industrial engineering (IE) department data, we found that WIP is higher earlier in the week and declines as the stockpile built up from the weekend HT is consumed. The IE department shared that HT ran 24/7, but the cleaning room typically only runs two shifts on week days. HT also has higher process times than most other processes and runs in batches. HT runs more than twice as much as any other resource pool (16/5=80hrs VS. 24/7=168hrs). The project scope could now be narrowed to the HT process and the flow to and from it.

Then we applied LSS methods to achieve the results mentioned above. For additional information about this project see my first blog post: Bottom Line Impact with Rapid Improvements.


Results of Applying TLS in this Crisis

  • 20% More Plant Throughput with minimal investment (High 7 Figure First Year Repeatable Impact)

  • 37% Less Labor $ (Even with $3/hr raise to Heat Treat Employees by eliminating Weekend OT Shifts)

  • 25% Less Heat Treatment Utilities (~$50K/month by eliminating weekend OT shifts)

  • 120% More through the Bottleneck Operation per Day


We use a systematic approach to gain insight & understanding into organizations in order to make rapid improvements where it will have the most impact.

You can think of us as strategic problem solvers. 

We really enjoy developing and executing strategic rapid improvement plans for organizations. It is great to see bottom line results come to fruition! 

Schedule an initial consultation to find out how to utilize TLS for Rapid Improvement in your organization!

For More Info Contact:

O 888.489.5121

F      704.479.7206

North Carolina, United States

1 opmerking

For anyone who hasn't read Michael's blog, I would say you are missing something very important. Take your time and read what Michael has to say, and you'll be better prepared to make improvements. And thanks Michael for mentioning The Ultimate Improvement Cycle! Bob Sproull

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