Strengthen Your Weakest Link

Padlock linked to a chain

Let's say your company has slashed costs to the bone, boosted productivity and taken market share from competitors. But you still want to see some improvement. It's time to find your weakest link and turn it into a strength.

According to the theory of constraint management, you should look system-wide for that weak link.

Examples of production constraints include:

When searching for your company's weak link, don't just focus on production. Examine sales, knowledge, facilities, policies, financial issues and suppliers.

The first step in identifying a constraint is to know your goals. Ask questions such as: Do we want to generate more revenue, speed the launch of products or cut the cost of workers' compensation?

Once goals are determined, you need to figure out the "critical success factors" that will help achieve your target. Not all these factors are constraints.

The following five steps are meant to "break" the constraint:

A principal tool of constraint management is the logical thinking process. Using logic, you: identify what you want to change; identify what you want to change it to and figure out how to make a change occur. Other tools address individual project management and synchronizing workflow in manufacturing operations.

Advocates of constraint management say it's appropriate for companies of all sizes, requires little training and can be used as a stand-alone solution or in conjunction with lean management, Total Quality Management and Six Sigma techniques.

Results You Can See

Manufacturers report a range of improvements from relying on constraint management. For example, one company:

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