How Technology can Help You Identify (and Eliminate) Workflow Bottlenecks on Your Shop Floor

For manufacturers, efficiency is the name of the game. When everything is running as it should, you start to feel confident your organization can grow the right way. But that is not always the case. All manufacturers must deal with bottlenecks. But can technology help you do that? 

In a study by Databox, 53% of respondents agreed that long-term bottlenecks have the greatest impact on growth. To make matters worse, the journey to efficiency is full of internal and external pressures caused by those bottlenecks. 

Internally — there is a wide range of emotions manufacturers face daily when production grinds to a halt: Frustration. Anxiety. And anger. 

Externally — bottlenecks often turn into late orders — and the late orders cause your business to lose money. 

How do you identify (and eliminate) bottlenecks even if you have older equipment, inaccurate data tracking, and hiring shortages disrupting production? 

Use the Connect, Collect, Analyze, and Automate method.


Why You Need to Resolve Bottlenecks as SOON as They Start 

To re-emphasize a point from our introduction, ALL manufacturers deal with bottlenecks. So, if everyone has to deal with bottlenecks, why is it important to reduce them? 

In this section, we will highlight four of the most common consequences that can arise from unresolved bottlenecks: 

1. Reduced Throughput 

When looking at the consequences of bottlenecks, there is one that is far above the rest — reduced throughput. When bottlenecks occur, they can cause a ripple effect of disruptions for your people, materials, and processes. This results in your output being less than it could be. 

2. Production Delays 

As an organization's output slows down due to a bottleneck, this can lead to delays in production. These delays can cause a disruption in the supply chain for other organizations relying on what you produce. This can create tension with the people your business relies on - your customers. 

3. Unhappy Customers 

As production delays cause elongated lead times, organizations have the difficult task of explaining these delays to their customers. 

From the manufacturer's perspective, the bottleneck may be very explainable and cause only a short-term disruption. 

From the customer’s perspective, you broke a promise, which can completely strain the business relationship you had with them. 

4. Dead Money 

Reduced throughput, production delays, and unhappy customers can all be the root cause of the last consequence we will cover — dead money hung up in inventory.  

Having an extensive order list should be a sign of a successful company, but if you can’t meet the demand, it can quickly become a nightmare.  

Unaddressed bottlenecks are almost guaranteed to cause inventory backorders.  


How to Eliminate Bottlenecks 

Bottlenecks do not go away on their own. As you look to improve inefficiencies on your shop floor, it is crucial to have a plan to not only identify these bottlenecks but also create an action plan that will drive results. Below is a way technology can help identify and eliminate bottlenecks in four steps: 


The first step to identifying bottlenecks is to connect and integrate your systems. Connecting your machines to your network may seem like a daunting task, especially if you have machines that are 20+ years old. What most don't realize is with the appropriate components and expertise, these machines can connect to your network and create a digital data flow. This saves you the time and resources it would take to track these by hand. 


Once your important machinery is part of your network, you can start collecting and recording the raw data these machines output automatically, so you can turn it into insights. 

Think about your data collection process now; between the sheer amount and variety of the data, it can be hard to keep track of. Plus, it gets more complex for each type of machine you have connected. 

By connecting your machines and automatically collecting data, you remove the need to do this by hand. This saves time, reduces human error and enables you and your team to analyze and interpret the data, allowing you to use it to make business decisions that will move your business forward.


Now that your machines are collecting accurate data, you can now identify bottlenecks when they occur, or by looking back at historical collected data, preventing costly consequences. By utilizing the collected data, you can create reporting dashboards that show important data in real-time, allowing you and your workers to catch issues before they affect productivity. 

If a bottleneck is causing reduced throughput on your shop floor, this isn’t something you would want to find out at the end of the day, month, or when the order is due. By receiving this data in real time, you can identify these issues right when they occur, allowing you to create a plan to fix or work around them.


With data collection and data analysis, manufacturers can now look forward to ways that can improve their efficiency and increase productivity. 

They can achieve this through automation. 

If there are manual tasks that are repeatable, you can automate them. This leaves your workers free to work on other areas of the business, including identifying bottlenecks. 

Automation can also save your business time and money spent on hiring and training staff, fixing mistakes, and monitoring. 


Where to Start 

So, how do you get to the point where you can start to connect, collect, analyze, and automate your processes to reduce them? 

Invest in digital transformation to augment your current workforce with the right technology that will keep your entire organization connected. One solution we turn to often for our clients at InsITe, is Inductive Automation’s Ignition platform. 

Ignition is a digital transformation platform that acts as a central hub for everything on your shop floor. Ignition will collect your raw data, analyze the data, and create a failure analysis that will show what caused a bottleneck. 

A tool like Ignition can be vital, but this cannot begin without a structure of how and where you apply it, as these can cause challenges down the road. 

And if you have old machines that you don’t believe can be network connected, we also recommend some simple IoT solutions that can track uptime, downtime, runtime, vibration, temperature, and other environmental conditions. Just because your machines are old doesn’t mean you can’t collect any data from them! 

If you find yourself in this situation and want to investigate how Ignition works or would be interested in discussing how your aged machinery might be monitored with creative IoT solutions, contact us and we can help get you started. InsITe is an Ignition gold-certified solution provider! 



InsITe helps businesses and manufacturing companies get the most out of current and emerging technologies with a customized IT approach to maximize growth, efficiency, insights, and productivity. InsITe is not a typical IT company selling products for short-term, short-sighted fixes. We invest in long-term solutions for a company’s growth by taking the time to learn its products, process, and business goals before bringing tech into the conversation. In this way, we become much like our Clients’ very own internal IT department with familiar faces who understand the business. 

If you have any questions about this post please leave a comment. We read and respond to all comments. Or better yet, give us a call and ask to talk directly to our Founder and CEO Mike Schipper 616-383-9000. 

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