The Secret Growth Killer? A Bottleneck In Operations Management

Christopher Pinski
May 16, 2024
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The Secret Growth Killer? A Bottleneck In Operations Management

There's a hidden danger lurking beneath the surface, undermining your success and hindering your growth. From the top, it can be tough to spot — but we bet your team can tell you what it is ...

This invisible enemy? A tangled web of production process bottlenecks that are slowing down your operations and blocking the path to sustainable growth. These inefficiencies can impact any and every department — customer service, HR, accounting, fulfillment...

Let's look at what a bottleneck is, how it impacts workflows across your business, how to spot them, and what to do to eliminate them.

What is a Bottleneck in Business?

A bottleneck is a point of congestion that causes a backup or pause in any process or workflow. Think about a bottle of soda or beer: the main part of the bottle holds a lot of liquid at once, but the bottle's neck only allows a small amount of liquid through at one time.

In business, a bottleneck can be an issue with the flow of approvals, your supply chain, extra or unnecessary steps in your processes...

The truth is, bottlenecks can stem from just about anywhere — in your intake process, production process, manufacturing process, or just about any process within your business. And the impacts are far-reaching.

Bottlenecks kill your growth by:

  • Impacting Productivity: If a team member doesn't have access to the information they need, they're unable to move ahead on that task. Instead, they're stuck waiting for someone to give them access or respond to their inquiry. Companies can experience an increase in data silos like this as teams grow.
  • Maxing Out Resources: If no one is quite sure where to find the answer to a question or who to contact about it, it takes more time — and more people — to resolve the issue. For manual departments, such as customer service teams who answer all requests manually, this is a surefire way to max out your team.
  • Straining Relationships with Customers and Suppliers: Manual processes and bottlenecks like the ones we just described mean that the flow of data is slowed. Customers and suppliers don't get the info they need fast enough — order updates, alerts, inventory updates, etc.

The Impact of Inefficiencies in the Production Process and Beyond

You know the frustration of misaligned teams, repetitive manual processes, and feeling a disconnect between your vision and the reality of your business. All of these issues can stem from operational inefficiencies — and a bottleneck is one of many frustrating types of inefficiency.

Bottlenecks waste time and talent, causing costly delays and hindering your ability to scale. And as much as they cost you in the past and present, process bottlenecks come with a major opportunity cost, too.

That's because failing to address and resolve process bottlenecks will keep you in a reactive state. This pulls your attention away from building your business, leading to missed opportunities, reduced profitability, and sluggish growth.

How to Identify Bottlenecks In Your Processes

These chokepoints are notoriously tricky to spot. Why? Your day-to-day operations have become second nature — business as usual. And with everyone’s nose to the grindstone, focused on production line details, it's tough to see which specific steps are holding you back.

Shining a spotlight on inefficiency across all your business processes takes a keen eye. You need a comprehensive view of how information and activities flow through your organization. Sometimes, the best way to identify bottlenecks is through an outside perspective.

Bottleneck Analysis: Illuminating the Path to Optimize Processes

Bottleneck analysis is a pivotal method for identifying and managing bottlenecks. It plays a crucial role in enhancing efficiency, increasing productivity, and reducing costs.

In fact, research suggests that companies may lose over $13k per employee per year due to inefficient processes (Formstack and Mantis Research, via CIO Dive).

Here's an example of how successful bottleneck analysis can streamline operations and lead to increased revenue:

Kitt Creative is a photography studio that used to struggle with coordination and productivity. They faced huge bottlenecks in every stage of their process: client bookings, customer communication, product delivery, and more. All of this required manual work that frustrated both employees and clients.

But after implementing automation to streamline client bookings, they registered nearly 1,000 families in just 24 hours — without breaking a sweat.

The data Kitt Creative unlocked in this process allowed them to tailor their offerings and make strategic decisions about growth with confidence.

It's critical to note that this wasn't achieved through one or two generic automations. This success just wouldn't have been possible without a thorough analysis of processes and software, careful integration of systems, and hands-on implementation.

When done strategically, the impact of assessing and removing bottlenecks can be truly transformative.

By eliminating redundancies, streamlining cross-functional collaboration, and making data-driven decisions, you’ll be amazed at how quickly efficiencies add up. And in today’s competitive landscape, that’s the difference between lagging and leading.

The Power of No-Code Platforms for Data-Driven Decision Making

Still skeptical about the impact of operational inefficiencies? Consider this sobering statistic:

Companies with optimized processes may generate 35% higher net profits compared to their less streamlined counterparts (CohnReznick).

But how can you track the impact of process improvements?

Emerging trends like low-code/no-code platforms and AI/ML integration are revolutionizing process optimization, helping to eliminate bottlenecks, and providing data-backed insights into your performance with custom dashboards and data visualization.

No-code and low-code tools reduce the time and effort needed to integrate different tools. That's because they handle configuration of servers, security, and complex authorization between software platforms — without you needing to lift a finger.

These tools also provide a quicker way to spin up user interfaces, such as dashboards and internal tools — tools that give businesses much-needed insights into their data and allow employees to take actions based on data.

With improved insights into your data, you’ll have x-ray vision to assess what’s slowing you down. Solve those issues, get the right people focused on the right work, and watch your growth take off!

Learn more in our must-read article, The Future of Software Development, about overcoming inefficiencies through innovation.

Bottlenecks in Operations Management: FAQs

Here are the quick-and-dirty answers to some common questions about bottlenecks in business processes.

What is a bottleneck example?

For professional services firms, client intake is a common source of bottlenecks. For example, if client information comes in via a paper form, staff need to scan and/or sometimes manually enter all the intake data into a system — which may or may not talk to all the other systems within your business.

Even if the intake information is digital (such as in an email or online form), perhaps all the information wasn't captured and staff need to reach out to the client for more information. Or, service providers aren't able to access all of the client data necessary to do their jobs.

That's how client intake bottlenecks can occur upfront and throughout the lifecycle of working with that client.

For manufacturers of physical goods, bottlenecks in the supply chain are a pervasive and serious problem, too. They have a significant impact on your production capacity and can bring the entire process to a halt.

What is bottleneck time in operations management?

Bottlenecks slow the progress of a workflow. They prevent you from reaching optimal or maximum throughput capacity.

Think about a beverage bottle and you'll get the gist: the neck regulates the flow of liquid (or in business, a workflow) — and if something gets stuck in the neck, things slow further or come to a total halt.

So in operations, whether back-office, manufacturing process, or somewhere else — bottlenecks cost time and money. The time you spend succumbing to or ignoring bottlenecks adds time to your processes, which equals higher budgets and/or smaller profit margins.

Thorough bottleneck analysis is the best way to get unstuck.

What are the 4 principles of bottleneck management and analysis?

Bottleneck analysis has 4 major parts:

  1. Identify the process bottleneck using bottleneck analysis tools — interviewing the team, observing current processes, analyzing historical data, and mapping current workflows
  2. Work to resolve the bottleneck by simplifying and standardizing workflows and implementing automation with highly visual tools such as
  3. Monitor the updated processes to confirm they're improving efficiency — or identify areas for additional improvement
  4. Iterate and improve by repeating steps 1-3 — as businesses scale, new challenges will arise, so stay vigilant and adaptable

How do you identify a bottleneck in operations?

Identifying bottlenecks can be tricky. Internally, it takes a unique viewpoint to be able to assess the way you've always done things and see what's slowing you down. Sometimes, the closer to the problem you are, the harder it is to spot!

Bringing in outside help, like a business process operations firm or automation expert, can be the best option. Expert bottleneck analysis is an efficient and effective way to fully identify and resolve all the most pervasive bottlenecks in every area of your business, including your blind spots.

It can even help you anticipate and prevent future bottlenecks.

Conclusion: Identifying Your Biggest Bottlenecks Can Unlock Your Full Potential

Getting more agile starts with shining a light on your blind spots and effectively fixing bottlenecks.

Today, low-code and no-code automation and analytics tools can empower you to work smarter, not harder. They'll deliver insights that help you:

  • Visualize and optimize workflows, focusing on improving efficiency and reducing costs by eliminating bottlenecks
  • Automate manual, repetitive tasks
  • Streamline communication and collaboration
  • Increase visibility with real-time dashboards
  • Regain your competitive edge

Imagine a future where your teams are perfectly aligned, your processes are seamless, you're consistently operating at optimal maximum capacity, and your data is working for you around the clock. That’s the power of streamlined operations — and it’s within your reach.

So, if operational bottlenecks are stunting your growth, it’s the perfect time to take action.

Explore Crispy Software Solutions’ automation page to discover innovative ways to streamline processes, increase efficiency, and unlock your business’s full potential. Your competition won’t know what hit them.

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Last updated
April 18, 2024

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