If you identify and correct the bottlenecks that are slowing down your production, you can improve your efficiency. Efficient operations have better bottom-line results. In manufacturing (yes the production of meat products is considered a manufacturing operation) there is always one part of the operation that is the slowest, and it may change as the production line adapts.

What you are looking for are places in your process flow where product stays in one place and continuously slows down the whole line. The Theory of Constants or TOC, was first presented in the 1984 book,The Goal, by Eliyahu M. Goldbratt and Jeff Cox. Bottlenecks can be the result of the way employees complete their task and/or the equipment in the production line.

Before spending a lot of money on new equipment, I recommend that you first focus on improving the efficiency in which employees complete their daily tasks and make management decisions. This can help prevent the production line from experiencing a bottleneck that slows down production or causes standstills to take place. It becomes easier to accurately determine what your equipment bottlenecks are when employees are functioning effectively.

There are five steps you can follow in your production to help improve the efficiency in which employees complete their daily tasks and make management decisions. These steps can help minimize the potential of bottlenecks in your production lines.

Step 1 - Allow your supervisors to make minor decisions. Don’t require supervisors to get approval for every move they make. This can result in slowdowns and the development of bottlenecks. Make sure supervisors and other employees have detailed job descriptions. All employees should know what is expected of them on a daily basis. If employees don’t know what to do or how to perform a task it will slow down production.

Step 2 - Promote organization in the production area. Work areas should be kept clean and organized. If materials or information that supervisors and employees need cannot be easily found it can result in slowdowns or production coming to a standstill.

Step 3 - Make sure employees are aware of both short-term and long-term goals. If employees are unaware of production goals production can slow down dramatically.

Step 4 - Cross train employees. Cross-training employees allows you to take an employee and put them in another employee’s position without harming production. Cross-training can prevent slowdowns or standstills due to absent employees.

Step 5 - Have a proactive maintenance program to help minimize equipment breakdown. Nothing impedes production like a standstill due to equipment failure. Make sure maintenance people are properly trained on how each piece of equipment needs to be serviced.

When making capital investments, you want to first address changes that will improve your bottlenecks. For example, you may not want to invest in a new grinder if your bottleneck is the stuffer. Keep in mind that frequently when you eliminate one bottleneck, another one appears. What you want to strive for is a “balanced line” where the product flows smoothly from start to finish with no part in the production line significantly limiting throughput thus hindering production and efficiency.

Remember: Efficient product lowers costs and improves profitability. Don’t let bottlenecks drag your operation down.