CONTINUOUS FLOW (PRODUCT ORIENTED LAYOUT) AND BOTTLENECK ANALYSIS
Reference: Operations Management by Mark A. Vonderembse and Gregory P. White.
The Product Layout and System Capacity
The capacity of a product-oriented system can be visualized as a series of pipes of varying capacity, with the smallest diameter or capacity holding back the entire system. Exhibit 9.3 illustrates five pipes (departments or machines) with different diameters (capacities). The output from one pipe becomes the input to the next until the finished product exits pipe number five. In Exhibit 9.3, pipe number two cannot handle all the flow that pipe number one can deliver, and therefore it restricts the flow. Because of pipe number two’s limited capacity, it restricts the flow from upstream pipes and starves the downstream pipes. Pipes three, four, and five can work on only what pipe two can deliver. This restriction is called a bottleneck, and it determines the system’s capacity.
Analysis of System Capacity
In a product-oriented layout, identifying the bottleneck is critical. The importance of this analysis cannot be overstated because the results are used not only in determining capacity, but also in planning and scheduling production, which will be discussed in Part III on planning and managing operations.
The approach to determining the bottleneck is illustrated in Exhibit 9.4. Start at the beginning of the system, and determine the capacity of the first operation or department. This is the system capacity so far. Use this capacity as the input to the next department in the sequence. Can that department take the total input from the previous department and process it completely? If it can, then the system capacity has not changed. If it cannot, then the system capacity is reduced to the capacity of that department. The procedure continues until the end of the process is reached and the system capacity is known.
Consider the example