What is a Bottleneck in Process Management?

If you have any knowledge whatsoever of process management (or if you’ve read this Kanban Method post), you’ve probably already heard a little about what bottleneck is. 

In the process management context, a bottleneck is a point in a given process where the flow of tasks gets impaired or even stops completely. Bottlenecks most likely happen because there isn’t enough capacity to handle all the task/information inflow—and by capacity, I mean of all kinds: data processing, software capacity, people, etc. 

The term bottleneck actually refers to the way a bottle is shaped and the fact that its neck is the narrowest part of it, making it the most likely place for liquid to pile up, creating congestion and slowing down the flow of liquid from the bottle.

Bottlenecks in Process Management

Taking it from the literal meaning to the actual application in process management, the term is used to describe points of congestion in all sorts of processes, from an assembly line in the manufacturing industry to data processing in software or computer networks. The potential results of having a bottleneck are: 

  • Stalls in production
  • Increase in resource idle time
  • Pressure from customers
  • Low employee morale

There are both short and long-term (chronic) bottlenecks: the short-term ones are usually temporary and don’t tend to be a significant problem (such as an employee taking days off/out on vacation time or a machine that’s temporarily unavailable); long-term occur all the time and can significantly slow down production over time (such as when a machine is not working efficiently enough and ends up generating a queue).

When does the bottleneck happen?

A bottleneck tends to surface when a resource involved in a phase of a process—by the resource you can interpret it as a department of your company, a facility or a machine—is already working at its full capacity and can’t handle any additional demand. It’s crucial to identify bottlenecks to mitigate them as soon as possible.

Bottlenecks happen when the incoming workload is arriving at a certain point more quickly than this point can handle it, limiting the overall throughput of the whole process. Having a bottleneck in your process tends to create a queue and augment your overall cycle time, so it’s vital to deal with them if you want to have a streamlined flow.

As we’ve already pointed out here, Kanban is one of the methods that allow you to manage your process properly, identifying bottlenecks and optimizing resources in order to avoid worse consequences from it.

Process Management with Pipefy

Pipefy was specially developed to help you control your processes regardless of the area and with customizable features. If you work in departments such as:

With Pipefy, you can establish a streamlined error-proof workflow, with full visibility of your process and a complete information centralization. Check out our template store and begin to eliminate all types of bottlenecks in your processes.

Written by
Isabelle Wuilleumier Salemme
Head of Customer Support @Pipefy. She uses her extensive Pipefy knowledge to help users make the best of Pipefy via support and writing informative content pieces. Besides being in charge of support, she's an avid reader, a coffee lover, and a professional photographer.
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