Bottlenecks in a Process
According to the Goldratt’s theory of constraints the system would fail in its weakest link. In his theory Goldratt compares networks to a chain or a system of chains (Dettmer, 1997). Once a certain force is applied, the chain is going to break in its weakest link. Hence, the weakest link is the constraint for achieving better performance ("Theory of constraints,” 2011). The number of constraints at any given time can be only one, as the weakest link is unique at a certain moment. However, in the long run any other non-constraint can become a constraint under different conditions. The continuous improvement of the constraints in a process is an important activity and forms the basis for Total Quality Management System (Dettmer, 1997).
In the process of responding to the patient’s request, time has been identified as the key metric. As it can be seen from the flowchart, the first bottleneck occurs at the “check the counter” step. If this step is not performed fast enough or the counter does not have a proper system of organizing the orders, the overall process slows down. The patient in this case has to wait for a response, therefore the process of serving patients is delayed. However, based on the theory of constraints any nonconstraint can become a constraint, once the weakest link is strengthened. Thus, if the counter check is conducted fast, while the delivery log is not maintained appropriately, the weakest link of the system migrates to the “check delivery log” step of the process. Bottlenecks for this particular process may be overcome by introducing a computerized catalogue system, which would accumulate information from pickup, delivery log and the counter in order to show the status of every script. In this case, the existing bottlenecks would be eliminated, however according to the Goldratt’s theory the system will still be constrained in other points. Thus, the inability to answer several calls may become a bottleneck in the future. In this case strengthening the weakest link would require both an increase in the number of personnel and an installation of the additional telephone line.
Dettmer, H. W. (1997). Goldratt's theory of constraints: a systems approach to continuous
improvement. Milwaukee, the United States of America: ASQ Quality Press.
Theory of constraints (TOC). (2011). Businessdictionary.com. Retrieved August 30, 2011,