A Process of Ongoing Improvement

How the theory of constraints helps manufacturers streamline operations.

What is your first thought when considering improvement inside a manufacturing plant? Controls? Robots? Automation? Efficiency? In the book The Goal, written by business consultant Eliyahu M. Goldratt, the reader discovers that what goes on inside a manufacturing plant really revolves around some less technical concepts.

Delays occur, but how, when, and why? Delays occur due to a combination of statistical fluctuations and dependent events. As written in The Goal, Statistical fluctuations can simply be described as variability. If we go back to the analogy described by Goldratt, there will always be variations in the outcome of rolling a die. Six sides mean six different possible numbers to roll. All of the different outcomes are statistical fluctuations, but we can always guess that we will roll an average of 3.5 (the average of rolling a six-sided die six times). Dependent events are moments or queries that are affected by what happened before the event occurs. Life in the world of managing manufacturing becomes harder when you combine statistical fluctuations with dependent events. Below is an example of what happens when you combine the statistical fluctuations of rolling a die with the dependent events on the shop floor. In a domino effect, we can see how the throughput of one job affects the next job. 

Figure 1

The lack of throughput in figure 1 above is a result of bottlenecks. In The Goal, the main character finds bottlenecks within the shop using data and considers purchasing an additional machine, but doesn't have the time nor the budget. After knowing another solution would be needed to correct the bottleneck, a number of questions were asked and answered. What is the cost when the bottleneck machines go down? The quick response was $32 per hour. How much does it cost when the whole plant stops? About $1.6 million per month or $2,735 ($1.6 million/585 hours). This logic explains that the output of the single machine is the output of the entire plant. A minute of down-time at the constraint translates into a minute of lost output and throughput for the entire plant. Throughout the book they find ways to minimize the impact of the bottlenecks and actually make significant improvements to to the plants throughput.

The Goal emphasizes being able to properly identify bottlenecks using data collection on resources and then optimize your scheduling of those resources. Once you know where a bottlenecks are within the shop, you can leverage them to achieve profitability and growth. This way, a genuine understanding of a manufacturer's true throughput can be gauged and monitored. StartProto has been working hard to make sure that these bottleneck operations are easy to understand and identify. We are constantly identifying techniques like these that can help manufacturers discover unknown pain points in their workflows. Let us do the heavy lifting and provide the tools for you to optimize your shop floor. 

To find out more about StartProto and the research and products being designed to optimize the shop floor contact us at and follow us on social media.


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