What's the Difference Between Constraints and Bottlenecks?

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What's the Difference Between Constraints and Bottlenecks?
Claudio Castanon
Constraint and bottleneck are different concepts:
- A constraint is a restriction of a process, it might be, equipment, people, specifications, materials, enviroment, policies, suppliers.
Being a restriction, these constraints do not allow to meet the customer demand or any other customer key requirement by not being "capable" (in terms of capacity).
For the whole process to flow as expected in order to obtain a daily production rate versus customer demand you can not produce or sell more than the constraint is capable to give.
Do not let a constraint dictate your throughput, fix the constraint to meet the desired throughput, once you have fixed the internal constraints, be prepared to meet the mother of all constraints: the market.
- A bottleneck on the other hand is simply caused by bad management of a process.

Sometimes a Constraint is Used to Create a Bottleneck
Wil Thomas, Member
I will point out that even if we have a "market constraint", we still need an internal management tool to pace production at the market demand rate. TOC calls this the "drum" but the drum alone is insufficient.
To limit production when the market is the constraint, we need an artificial or "policy" constraint that limits the drum to market demand (and thus creates an artificial bottleneck).
While your definition of a constraint is adequate, I think your definition of a bottleneck is a bit short-sighted.
Best regards.

Is the Market the Real Constraint?
Juergen Kanz
I suggest to identify the internal constraint at first. The so called Capacity Constrained Resources (CCR) are typically identified while implementing the DRUM-BUFFER-ROPE (DBR).
However you may find that the market is the real constraint: most of the time you have more capacity than what the market is demanding.
If this is the case, you can move to SDBR (Simplified Drum-Buffer-Rope).
Read "Manufacturing at Warp Speed" by Eli Schragenheim and H. William Dettmer, to get a good understanding of both the DBR and the SDBR concept.

Bottleneck versus Constraint
Salvador Pena, SIG Leader
Hi, I agree, bottleneck and constraint concepts are different. A bottleneck has the lowest capacity of the system and the capacity of a constraint is limited as Juergen Kanz already mentioned with the CCR concept.
In fact we don't want to have a bottleneck inside of our system because it will crash it. With SDBR we will balance the flow in order to release some capacity of the bottleneck and put some protective capacity.


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Special Interest Group Leader
Salvador Pena
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