What is a Supply Chain Bottleneck?

What is a supply chain bottleneck? Imagine it’s a normal day and you’re headed to the grocery store to stock up. All of a sudden, you can’t find that last item on your list. You walk around the store searching from top to bottom, and you swear you saw this product the last time you went shopping. After a while of fruitless searching, you end up asking the staff for help. With a few steps and turns, you find the product.

Suddenly, when checking out the cashier finds the card reader isn’t working and scrambles to find a manager to fix it. For a long time, you stand there with your groceries, waiting for the staff to fix the issue. Once resolved, they apologize for the long delay, and you’re on your way. However, when you leave the store, it starts to rain. You scramble to get to your car without getting too wet. Inside your vehicle, your hair is soaked but your groceries are okay.

What is a Supply Chain Bottleneck?

Identifying Bottlenecks

That sounds like a lot of pain for just a grocery trip, right? That’s because there were bottlenecks in the way. A bottleneck (constraint) is when something gets stuck and it takes a long time to pass through. Like wine bottles, not only does the neck serve as a handle to hold, but also makes sure you don’t pour too much wine. In the global supply chain industry, an example of a bottleneck is when an international supplier doesn’t have enough stock for your order, your delivery driver/cargo ship leaves late, or a vital machine breaks down. However, there are many unintentional bottlenecks in a supply chain as well, just like the rain in the story.

Preventing Bottlenecks

Once you have identified potential bottlenecks in the manufacturing process or any other parts of your operation, it is vital that you take action to minimize the risks associated. Below we outline some important steps to make sure your business is safe from the threats of a variety of production bottlenecks.

Be Prepared

Those moments where you didn’t fill up your gas tank or bring a charger for your phone are samples of unpreparedness. One way to prevent delays is to have multiple back-up plans and plan ahead. Check each stop in your supply chain and ensure they are ready to handle your process. It is always important to create action plans in case something goes wrong. With back-ups, the time delay will significantly lessen from what could have been had you not made a backup plan.


Miscommunication is also a big factor to supply chain bottlenecks. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or even check on your employees to make sure they are 100% sure of what they have to do. If everyone knows their importance to the process, not only will they feel important but they will also feel more motivated.

Observe Proper Maintenance

Technological disruptions are also a big obstacle. This is why it is vital to update your systems and make sure they are in excellent shape. This can be achieved through routine checkups and real-time maintenance and repairs.

Don’t let a supply chain bottleneck waste your companies valuable time and resources. It’s important to try to find the weaknesses in your system and strengthen them to avoid issues. Once done, you’ll have an efficient system free from the threats of bottlenecks and constraints and a supply chain working efficiently.

Case Study: 5 Companies Break Industry Bottlenecks

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