Theory of Constraints

What is the Theory of Constraints?

The idea behind the theory of constraints is that every process carried out has a constraint. Why does this matter? By understanding constraints, and improving them, you are able to improve the entire process. Without improving constraint, there is no way to improve the process as a whole. To put it into layman terms we will demonstrate an example of the theory. An example of a process is counting candles in a box. Someone may hand you a box full of dice, you can remove them while counting, and then return the box of dice after. An example of a constraint is how quickly the box was handed to you; did this affect the rate at which you counted candles? If the box was handed to you faster, would this increase speed and better the process? This is an example of how a constraint can be altered to potentially improve a process.

What are the Five Focusing Steps?

When looking at a process, you can use the five focusing steps to identify constraints in a process. By identifying these constraints you are able to improve the process.

  • Identify: By locating the portion of the process that slows your rate you are identifying the constraint of the process. By identifying the weak factor of the process, you can better the factor, and as a result, ultimately better the process.

  • Exploit: Use the resources you have to better the constraint. Take advantage of your resources and exploit the solutions you can already access.

  • Elevate: If you have already identified your constraint and exploited resources in an effort to improve the process, the next step would be to consider what steps need to be taken to remove the constraints from the process. This usually results in cost, but you must do whatever is necessary to remove the problem and reach your goal.

  • Repeat: The Five Focusing Step are a cyclically and long term process. You must constantly reassess your process’s productivity and effectiveness, and study how it can be improved.

Examples of Theory of Constraint

  • Factory: Working in a factory is a step-by-step process. Studying each step of the process and identifying possible constraints can better your production to better meet your end goal. An example of a constraint is the proximity of the finished product to the loading dock. This distance is a constraint to the process of getting the product finished and delivered. By decreasing this distance, you eliminate the constraints, and better the process.

  • Management: When managing a project or a group of people, looking at each task and responsibility amongst the group can be a great way to identify constraints. For instance, a constraint may be one particular employee is responsible for too many differing tasks. The solution can be to better specialize employee. The end result: eliminating the constraint.

The theory of constraints is a great tool that can be utilized to better your process. This can help you be the best production possible and function as effectively as you can.


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