Always Focus on the Bottleneck

Always Focus on the Bottleneck

Always Focus on the Bottleneck

Welcome to Part I of Countertops 101’s Best Practices Series

In most shops, the perception is you are making money if the bridge saw, panel saw, or CNC are cutting up a new project. Consequently, we like to see as many jobs being cut as possible.  However, the real place money is made or lost is at your shop bottleneck.  The bottleneck is the point at which production is slowed.

Bot-tle-neck [bot-l-neck] noun – A place or stage in a process at which progress is impeded

For instance, look at this model for either a stone or solid surface shop:

  • Saw guy can cut out 600 sq. ft. per day
  • Edge lamination guy can glue up 400 sq. ft. per day
  • Sander or polisher can only polish 200 sq. ft. per day

Q. Where would the bottleneck be? 

A. In the sanding or polishing stage.

Your total output for the day is limited to the constraint.  The goal is to level the output across all stages.

Your new target would be:

  • Saw guy can cut out 600 sq. ft. per day
  • Edge lamination guy can glue up 600 sq. ft. per day
  • Sander or polisher can only polish 600 sq. ft. per day

This is a pretty realistic problem you will see in most countertop shops. In solid surface shops the bottleneck often is in sanding stage and in most stone shops the bottleneck is at polishing (3cm) or edge lamination (2cm) stage.

There are a couple of solutions available:

  1. Hire another polisher to bring up production in the sanding/polishing stage to 600 sq. ft. (this would move the new bottleneck to the edge lamination stage)
  2. Granted it could take awhile to find a new hire. In the meantime, have your sawyer cut out 400 sq. ft. instead of 600.  Then have him stop and work in the bottleneck to increase your overall capacity. This simple change will boost your output and minimize downtime.

The bottleneck will continue to move around. If you were to boost your sanding/polishing up to 600 sq. ft., but your edge lamination stayed at 400 sq. ft., you will want to immediately focus on this new bottleneck or you will have sanders/polishers standing around.

REMEMBER: The goal is to allocate all your resources effectively to smooth out production across all stages by always focusing on the bottleneck.  Before you rush to hire more people, see what changes can be made to more effectively utilize the labor force you currently have.  You may just surprise yourself on what can be achieved with a few small tweaks.

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