Bottlenecks in a Process

February 23, 2017 Management

In week one I identified a process I perform daily and would like to do less of. The process is driving to work. To be more specific, spending less time driving is ultimately my goal. I am looking to find the most efficient method to do so. I have identified various bottlenecks in the process that prevent me from my goal. A bottleneck is a resource that is overloaded (more work than capacity) during a particular period of time (
To further break down this task I used Goldratt??™s Theory of Constraints. A constraint is anything that prevents the system from achieving more of its goal (Chase, Jacobs & Aquilano, 2006).
Theory of Constraints uses a 5 step process, called a ???Process Of On-Going Improvement??™ to improve any system. These steps are called the 5 Focusing Steps. (
Step 1. Identify the System??™s Constraint(s).
Step 2. Decide how to Exploit the System??™s Constraint(s).
Step 3. Subordinate everything else to the above decisions. ?
Step 4. Elevate the System??™s Constraint(s). ?
Step 5. If in the Previous Steps a Constraint has been Broken, go back to Step 1

Traffic bottlenecks can be caused by a wide variety of things. A construction zone, where one or more existing lanes may become unavailable. An accident site can also temporarily close lanes. A highway that turns from two lanes to one reduces the capacity of cars therefore reducing the flow of traffic at a consistent speed and rate. These are examples of System Constraints.

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After a couple of weeks of tracking my driving, I realized that checking the traffic report before leaving my home was not enough to overcome the bottlenecks. According to Chase, Jacobs & Aquilano, bottlenecks can cause a restriction of throughput (defined as sales). In my case, bottlenecks have a direct impact on the time I am able to spend selling.
I realize I have no control over the flow of traffic and the reasons why bottlenecks occure. However, I did discover an ???exploitable??? solution around my problem. One of the simplest ???fixes??? is to change the time I am leaving home to drive to work. I found that timing played a key role in how much time I spent in traffic. I typically leave around 7:45 a.m., however when I left by 7:15 a.m., traffic flow was more consistent and less congested. I was able to shave anywhere between 15 and 20 minutes of driving using this method. Although the distance is the same, I am not bogged down with as many bottlenecks, thereby reducing the time I spend in traffic.


Chase, R.B., Jacobs, F.R., & Aquilano, N.J. (2006). Operations management for competitive advantage (11th ed). New York:McGraw Hill/Irwin


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