The bottleneck In Production – What Is It and How to Deal With It?

The bottleneck in production is some scarce resource that reduces the production capacity of the whole chain. The bottleneck needs to be efficiently managed to ensure profit maximization and enhanced business efficiency.

It’s called a bottleneck because the neck of the limits the volume of water to be stored in the bottle and the production bottleneck similarly limits the quantity of the units to be produced in the production process.

How does it work?

Businesses usually face some challenges that bring limitations in their capacity to operate and grow. These limitations can be short or long terms in nature. The short-term limitations usually do not present a greater challenge. However, the cumulative effect of the long-term bottleneck is adversely higher on the business growth and efficiency.

An example of a short-term limitation is the skilled employee going on leaves. This might create problems in the production if an adequate replacement is not available within the organization. As it’s going to stall the production since the time he/she resumes the office.

An example of long terms limitation may be the shortage of chemical mixing machines for a company in a dying industry. While there is sufficient labor to work, sufficient production space, sufficient availability of the raw material, and all other facilities.

However, due to higher time consumption in the mixing machine labour have to sit idle and the capacity of other resources cannot be utilized in full. Hence, chemical mixing machine works as a bottleneck in the process of production.

How to deal with production bottleneck?

An ideal approach to deal with production bottleneck is the identification of the bottleneck, evaluating consequences of the bottleneck on production, managing the bottleneck with all the available resources, and increasing production efficiency. Let’s discuss these conceptual aspects to deal with the production bottleneck.

1) Identification of bottleneck

The bottleneck can be identified by looking at the accumulation in the production process. It’s the point where units take greater time to be processed and there are several units in the queue of production.

However. Identification by accumulation does not always work. So, a more reliable approach is to use throughput in the production process. The throughput helps to determine the number of units processed by the machine at a specific time.

If there are different machines in the process of production, a comparison of throughput between each machine can help to identify the machine that produces the lowest units in a specific time.

Hence, the machine with the lowest production is a specific time is a bottleneck that limits the production of the entire production process.

2) Evaluating the consequences

In the second step, the managers need to understand the consequences of an identified bottleneck. The effects of the bottleneck may be severe depending on the nature of the process.

The business needs to identify the consequences of the bottleneck whether it’s stalling the production process and business is delaying the supplies to the customers or any other adverse impact on the operational efficiency of the business.

The bottleneck can actually stall the production as other resources may remain idle in a wait to get input from another machine which is a bottleneck.

The delayed production due to bottleneck may cause inventory to pile up in the warehouses. The company may have to incur additional costs for warehousing due to slow production.

Further, a low rate of production may be a cause of motivation for the employees as their remuneration may be linked with the number of units produced.

Hence, bottleneck resource needs to be managed appropriately to ensure enhanced business efficiency.

3) Managing the bottleneck

The severity of the consequence helps to decide what action should be taken to manage the bottleneck. If the consequences are severely adverse, immediate action can be required.

For instance, if the consequence of bottleneck is an inability to meet the customer orders and impairment in the good will of the company.

The business may need to manage the bottleneck resource immediately even they have to incur the cost. The bottleneck can be managed by addition to the scarce resource, usage optimization, adequate maintenance of the resource, and any efforts that increase output from the resource.

On the contrary, if the impact of bottleneck resource is not much higher, it may be ignored else the cost of resource management may be higher than the benefit obtained.

What causes a production bottleneck?

The production bottleneck can be caused by any process in the chain of processes that takes more time than other processes. It may be actually some resource that is scarce and cannot be purchased easily.

The problem with bottleneck resources is that production cannot be completed without a product passes through/consumers the bottleneck resource.

For instance, three machines A, B, and, C is required to produce a product-A. These machines take 10 minutes, 20 minutes, and 10 minutes to process the product. In working shift of 6 hours 36 units can be processed in the machine A and C.

However, machine B can only process 18 units. Hence, the whole production can only finish 18 units in one shift and machine A and C remain idle for half of the time as machine B takes double time to process the product.

Hence, machine B is a bottleneck that limits the production of the entire chain. In this case, more production time of machine B causes a bottleneck. The bottlenecks can be different in different situations. Hence, business needs to get one more machine B if they want to avoid an idle time of machine A and C.

However, if the business produces different products and it cannot get a new machine it can prepare the production plan that maximizes the profit.

Profit maximization using bottleneck

To maximize the profit with bottleneck the business needs to consider contribution generation concerning usage of the scarce resource. If there are multiple products of the business it needs to identify which product has the highest contribution margin by using per unit of the scarce resource.

Once the contribution margin per unit is calculated for all the products. The individual products are ranked in order with a high to low contribution margin per unit. This approach makes the business get maximum contribution by using bottleneck/scarce resources.

Activities Based Management (Example and Implementation)

Definition:

Activities Based Management is used to describe the cost management applications of Activities Based Costing.

Activities Based Management views the business as a set of linked activities that ultimately add value to the customers.

It focuses on managing the business on the basis of managing the activities that make up the organization and assumes that such activities consume costs. Therefore by managing activities, costs will be managed in the long term.

Simple, Activities Based Management build the principle of activities based costing and activities based budgeting to improve the profitability of an organization.

It does this by identifying which activities can be performed more efficiently, which activities can be eliminated entirely, how changing the design of a product can lower costs and improve relationships with customers and suppliers.

Traditional budget and control report analyses cost by type of expense at each cost center. In contrast, Activities Based Management analyses cost by activities and providing management with information on why the cost is incurred and the cost drivers.

Activities Based Management focuses on managing the business on the activities that make up the organization.

It is based on the premise that activities consume cost. Therefore, by managing the activities, the cost will be managed in the long term.

The goal of Activities Based Managements is to enable customers to need to be satisfied while making less demand for organization resources.

Prior to the introduction of ABM, most of the organizations have been unaware of the cost of undertaking the activities with the highest cost to be highlighted so that they can be prioritized to detail study whether they can be eliminated or perform more efficiently.

Value-added and Non-value added:

To identify and prioritize the potential for cost reduction using ABM, many organizations found it is useful to classify activities as either value-added or non-value added. By doing so, the organization knows clearly what activities should improve should to eliminate.

Value-added activity is an activity that customers perceive as adding users to the product or service they purchase whereas a non-value added activity where there is an opportunity for cost reduction without reducing the product’s service potential to the customer.

Taking action to reduce or eliminate non-value added activities is given top priority because by doing so the organization permanently reduces the cost it incurs without reducing the value of the product to customers.

However, management should be making sure that the eliminations are not affecting other value-added activities.

To implement an Activities Based Management system, the following stages.

Here are three steps to implement Activities Based Management:

Step 1: Identify the major activities in an organization

In this step, we simply study the activities that happen in the organization or in the specific production process.

First, you probably pick up all the activities and then categorize them into different categories. Remember, this stage we select only the important activities in the organization.

Therefore, once we categories the activities, we then select only the important activities for study. For example, the major activities in the organization include:

  • Purchase order
  • Material handling
  • Quality Inspection
  • Assembly, and
  • Installment

Maybe there are many other important activities in the organization that is not included here. But, here are all the activities.

So, once we identify the major activities, we then need to assign the costs to those activities. Late see next step,

Step 2: Assigning cost to cost pools/ cost centers for each activity

Now it is time to assign the cost to those activities that we identified above. This is a very important stage of Activities Based Management, and probably the most difficult in the real situation.

The reason is the cost of those activities is not realistic or we cannot obtain enough data to assign the cost for those activities as most of the system or accounting records are not classified for.

n general, the accounting records are based on the types of staff or material rather than activities. To implement this we do need system that could accomplish such kind of reports. For example, how much is the cost for assembly and how much is the cost of installment.

Now assume you have all of those reports and data.

Let move to the next step,

Step 3: Determining the cost driver for each activity

In this step, you simply need to find out what is the cost drivers of each of the activities that you find in step 2. For example, Quality Inspect, probably the number of inspections or hour spend for inspection.

This is very important and you need to figure out this. So once you figure out the cost drivers, you then need to accomplish the number of those drivers spend in each product.

Then you will know, which product you spend a high cost and which product you spend a low cost. By knowing this, you then could manage the activities by making sure that those activities run more efficiently.

I hope this Activities Based Management help.

Use Boston Consulting Group Model in Assessing Strategic Business Unit

Definition:

Boston Consulting Group develops a matrix that could help the management of the company to assess the position of the strategic business unit and develop the right strategy in order to maintain and improve business units or products.

In a large business corporation, there are many types of products, division and business units that diversify differently.

Such product, division, and business units are position differently base on their market share and market growth. Basically, the products that have a high market share and have high demand in the market would stand on top of business portfolio management.

It is very important for management to assess how the position of their products or business unit in the market is.

Knowing the strategic position of products is not only helps managers to develop the right strategy for those products but also helping them to design the right measurement systems in order to keep that product move in the right direction.

Boston Consulting Group model classifies the business unit into four different categories based mainly on their market share and market growth.

Star Product in Boston Consulting Group:

Star refers to a product or group of products that gain better market shares than other similar products in the market.

These minds of products are currently satisfied with the customer’s requirements. The market growth or demand for these products in the market keeps increasing, while the prices are less competitive.

Such products normally earn a high-profit margin as customers are willing to pay. The competition in the market seems low for these kinds of products because not many competitors come.

Management should be setting up the right strategy and put the right performance measurement for this kind of product. For example, growing in sales compared to the total market share.

This is to ensure that these types of products still play in rank number one in the market. Management should also measure customers’ satisfaction.

In case, there are new competitors come into the market, the company still retains the old and keeps recruiting new customers since their services and product quality is good. Maybe a survey on customer satisfaction should be deployed.

Problem child in Boston Consulting Group:

Problem child refers to new products that just launched in the markets and the demand for those products is increased highly. However, these group of products doesn’t gain a better share in the market.

For example, your company is selling coffee, and currently, the demand in the market is quite high. Yet, your company does not get a high turnover on it. Base on Boston Consulting Group, Coffee here should be classified as Problem Child.

The product that class in Problem Child simply because of the internal problem rather than external effect. The product is quality, service, and awareness of your coffee in the market. Not the market itself.

The three important things to consider for the product in Problem Child are the quality, service, and branding. Maybe, the company should do more market research about these group of products, learn more about customers’ requirement and make sure the quality of products meet the requirements.

Cash cow in Boston Consulting Group:

Based on Boston Consulting Group, cash cow refer to the group of products that currently have high market share, but the demand seems to be mature. Maybe because there are a large group of competitors or substitute for products.

These groups of products generate a good amount of cash for the company but they will soon become Dog.

In most cases, management intends to keep cash cow products stay as long as they could be, as they generate a large amount of cash even low margin.

Management should be making sure that the products will meet the customer requirement and probably add on services to lock customers are required. More importantly, controlling the production process and costing management would be much better for gaining a better margin.

Dog in Boston Consulting Group:

Products that treat as Dog are the ones that gain low market share and poor market growth. In most cases, these groups of products are decided to be dismantled from the portfolio.

However, the assessment needs to be performed whether these types of products have a connection with others stare, cash cow or problem child or not.

These that is the case, management need to make whether dismantle these products could adversely affect those products.

Limitation of Boston Consulting Group Model

Besides helping management to assess the strategic position of Strategic Business Unit, Boston Consulting Group Model also have some limitation that could lead to miss allocation of products and subsequently lead to wrong decision making.

  • Assessing the market share and market growth might be difficult and realistic. Such data might not available for certain markets or countries. If we can’t obtain those data accurately, the decision also seems unlikely correct.
  • BCG focuses only on two main factors: Market Share and Market Growth, but to make a better assessment, other factors could also be important. For example, the attractiveness of products or services

The model considers each class of products are independent, yet in any case, the products of the company are linked together. The model seems unrealistic in this classification.

Activities Based Costing ( Step by Step)

Definition:

Activities Based Costing treats direct cost the same as absorption costing. However, Activities Based Costing treat the overhead cost based on activities that drive production.

For example, planning, scheduling, number of orders, labor hours, machine hours, etc. Absorption costing treats overhead based mainly on Direct Labor Hours or Direct material.

The following are simple steps to calculate Activities Based Costing:

Records Direct Cost ( Direct Material and Direct Labor) for each Product:

All you need to do in this step is to record all direct costs related to the product separately. This is the same as Absorption costing, prime costs (direct labor and direct material) are records separately.

After you deal with direct costs, now it is time to deal with overhead costs.  As mention above, Activities Based Costing, the cost is absorbed into the product base on the main driver that drives those products.

Therefore, what we need to do in the next step is to identify the activities in the organization.

Identify organization activities:

The step requires us to study about the activities in the organization that drives overhead cost. For example, there are ordering of products, handling material, product dispatch, and production schedule.

Collect the cost of each activity into what is called cost pool:

Then, collect cost data related to those so that we can find the real cost that each product should absorb. For example, how much the entity expenses on ordering activities, material handling, production scheduling, and dispatch.

Noted: Cost pool is an activity that consumes resources and for which overhead costs are identified and allocated. For each cost pool, there should be a cost driver.

Identify the factors which determine the size of the costs of activities:

In this step, we find the driver of each activity.

For example:

Activities:                                                         Cost Drivers:

Ordering                                                          Number of Orders

Material Handling                                          Number of Production Run

Production Scheduling                                  Number of Production Run

Dispatching                                                      Number of Dispatches

Then, calculate the Cost Driver Rate and apply them to each product.

Example:

Dispatching driver rate = Dispatching up cost / Number of Dispatches

Noted: Cost driver is any factor that causes a change in the cost of an activity.

Assign the cost of activities to products:

Now it is time to apply the cost of each product based on the driver that it consumes. For example, Product A required 600 number of dispatches and the dispatching driver rate is 5$.

Then, dispatching cost for Product A is 600 * 5 = 30,000$

Conclusion:

Compare to Absorption Costing, Activities Based Costing is more accurate and it could help managers to manage the performance of the company as well as producing more effectively.

For example, management may study which cost that drives the overhead the most for product A.

Then, management might compare those costs to other products and companies. Subsequently, the benchmark against those costs for improvement will start.