Theory of Constraints vs Focused Improvement (5 Steps of ToC in the FI Pillar)

champion / sponsor commercial excellence focused improvement lean supply chain management theory of constraints Oct 18, 2023

The video explores the application of the Theory of Constraints (ToC) and its relation to Focused Improvement (FI) in an industrial setting.  It highlights the significance of addressing bottlenecks and constraints in the pursuit of continuous improvement.

Bottlenecks and Constraints

  • The terms "bottlenecks" and "constraints" are introduced, emphasizing their practical equivalence in most cases.
  • They are defined as process points operating at or below maximum capacity in comparison to the demand, resulting in production inefficiencies.

Five-Step Program for Addressing Constraints

  1. Identify the Constraint

    • The first step is to pinpoint the constraint within the production process, acknowledging that this task can become more complex in larger and multifaceted production environments.
    • A quick trick for identification involves observing the work-in-progress (WIP) at various process gates.
  2. Exploit the Constraint

    • Exploitation focuses on maximizing the efficiency of the current constraint without significant investment. It includes quick fixes to reduce downtime, minimize delays, and ensure smooth operation.
    • Strategies such as minimizing machine breaks, optimizing changeovers, and maintaining continuous operation are employed.
  3. Subordinate Other Processes

    • This step involves ensuring that all other processes or production lines are subordinated to support the constraint. In practice, it might result in slightly reducing efficiency in non-constraint areas to enhance the constraint's performance.
    • Subordination is crucial for overall production efficiency, even though it might appear counterintuitive on paper.
  4. Elevate the Constraint

    • Elevating the constraint means making substantial improvements to the constrained process. It may involve investments in new equipment or significant process redesign.
    • The goal is to enhance the constraint's capacity, taking it closer to its maximum potential.
  5. Repeat the Process

    • The fifth step is a critical component of continuous improvement. It involves continuously identifying and addressing constraints, with an understanding that constraints can change over time.
    • The ultimate aim is to keep the production process flexible and adaptable to new challenges.

Throughput Focus and Market Demand

  • The ToC methodology primarily focuses on maximizing throughput and aligning it with market demand before considering other types of costs. This approach sets it apart from many other continuous improvement methodologies that consider cost efficiencies from the start.

Focused Improvement (FI)

  • FI, as a concept within the Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) framework, is discussed. It involves conducting cost analyses and capacity and labor studies to identify areas where improvement efforts should be concentrated.
  • FI emphasizes minimizing setup times, reducing waste, and optimizing routine stoppages in the context of the identified constraints.

Team Collaboration and Contribution

  • FI teams coordinate with other departments and teams within the organization to ensure a collective effort in improving the overall operations.
  • The video underscores the importance of monitoring and assessing the contribution of different teams to the overall output and cost-effectiveness.

Continuous Self-Improvement and Learning

  • The video encourages individual and collective continuous improvement within organizations. It highlights the importance of ongoing learning and development.
  • A learning resource is mentioned, offering training on FI and its integration with the Theory of Constraints to enhance organizational efficiency.

Course Forward:

  • Would you like to improve your skills to guide the improvement efforts (using TOC, OEE and other tools) and develop the capabilities to focus on the biggest opportunities in your Site or Region?
  • Learn more about our Focused Improvement Leader coaching program!  See the benefits below, and find more details in this link.


Source (best YouTube video on TOC and FI) 

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