A workflow bottleneck is a point of congestion in a production system (like an assembly line or a computer network). Workflow bottlenecks can occur when demand is higher than the production capacity, but it could also occur if materials are exposed to damage or spoilage.
Managers can analyze variances between budgeted and actual results so they can identify and remove bottlenecks. Solving workflow bottlenecks might mean automating labor processes, finding new suppliers, or creating better forecasts for consumer demand.
Take a look at our five tips for solving workflow bottlenecks and automating smarter business processes.
1. Identify Your Bottlenecks
The first step in solving workflow bottlenecks is to identify what they are and why they’re happening. That way, you’ll know exactly what you’re supposed to be rectifying. Identify bottlenecks by analyzing the difference between budgeted and actual results. If the cost of labor is higher than budgeted amounts, managers can then determine that a bottleneck is causing a delay in the production or wasting labor hours.
2. Create a Detailed Map of All Your Business Process
Creating a detailed map of all of your business processes can help you get a clear overall picture of how your business is running. That can help you decide whether you need to hire a few more people or whether you need a whole new set of tools to help you manage your business more effectively and efficiently. If there are weaknesses in the supply chain, you might need to find new suppliers so that you can improve your workflow and automate more processes.
3. Decide What to Automate
Now that you know where your problems lie and you’ve created a map of all of your business processes, you can decide what processes to automate. These might include:
- Sales and marketing
- Office management
- Lead generation
- Customer service and engagement
Automating the above areas of your business can make running it a lot easier. When there’s less to think about doing, you can dedicate more of your time to finding ways to make your business grow.
4. Evaluate Your Current Tools and Resources
Once you’ve laid out exactly what your business processes are and you’ve decided what to automate, it’s time to evaluate your current tools and resources (if you’re using any). If they don’t seem to be effective in helping you keep up with demand, you might want to reconsider using them. You may decide that using them is no longer beneficial for you, in which case, you’ll need to find new tools to solve workflow bottlenecks and find better ways to automate certain processes.
5. Creating Better Forecasts for Consumer Demand
Whatever you’re using to forecast consumer demand may need an upgrade, if slow production is causing workflow bottlenecks. You’ll need to figure out how much product to order and where to stock the inventory and determine a pricing strategy. That means you’ll have to create a budget, plan and schedule production, and understand your market thoroughly. Otherwise, you risk ordering too much of a product or not enough. You can look at trends from the previous year (for holiday sales) or from the previous quarter. Forecasting a slight increase (about 5 percent) from quarter to quarter or year to year is common.
Using Technology to Solve Workflow Bottlenecks and Automate Your Business Processes
Technology has become so advanced so much in just the last 10 years. The fact that it can solve workflow bottlenecks and automate smarter business processes means happier employees that feel they have more flexibility when it comes to their schedules. Your company could also benefit by understanding who’s available at what times to help promote a more balanced workflow between employees.