How to Find and Fix Bottlenecks in Your Supply Chain 

Fixing bottlenecks is the only way to keep your supply chain moving. From deriving raw materials through to delivering products to the customer, supply chains are made up of many processes and steps. Bottlenecks in your supply chain could lead to multiple issues that will ultimately affect your customer experience, and in turn your bottom line.

According to Mckinsey, spreadsheets remain the top method for supply chain planning, with 73% of people relying on them. Since every supply chain runs on processes, by examining the processes in your supply chain rather than only the surface level data, you can determine the cause of these bottlenecks and ultimately fix them through process improvement and process automation.


What is a bottleneck in the supply chain?

A supply chain bottleneck is a point in the supply chain that slows down or prevents goods from moving to the next stage.


Common supply chain bottlenecks

Transport delays

Disruptions to the movement of goods through the supply chain caused by factors such as weather events, strike action or customs issues can affect the timely delivery of materials to factories and products to customers.

Inventory shortages

Inaccurate sales forecasting or unexpected surges in demand can lead to stockouts and unfulfilled orders.

Production delays

A lack of materials or labor required for production can bring manufacturing operations to a standstill and increase the time it takes to get end products to market.


Effects of supply chain bottlenecks on operations

Wasted resources

Employees and machinery are left redundant and waiting for work to do.

Dissatisfied customers

Delayed deliveries or stockouts can lead to unmet customer expectations resulting in reduced loyalty, loss of repeat business and damage to brand reputation. 

Increased costs

Last-minute purchasing, employee overtime and additional storage costs can result in increased prices for customers and a potential loss of completive advantage and sales. 

Product wastage

Delays in perishable or seasonal products moving through the supply chain can lead to spoilage or them becoming irrelevant.


How to identify bottlenecks in your supply chain

Every business and every supply chain is unique. Your operations may span the length of an entire supply chain, or they may make up just one step in the journey of raw materials to the end-customer. 

The best way to identify bottlenecks in your supply chain is to have a clear view of your operations. This can be achieved by modeling your business processes in a workflow diagram. Having a visual diagram of the flow of information puts actions into the context of your business operations. Once you have a process model, stakeholders can use this as a single point of truth to identify where bottlenecks are and precisely what is holding up execution.

You can even pre-emptively identify bottlenecks with business process simulation. This allows the processes to be tested in a real-world scenario to determine the impact that any changes to a process will have without the risk of disrupting business. 

Simulating your business processes allows you to answer ‘what if’ questions and by creating “to be” scenarios. It ultimately lowers costs and preserves resources because the simulation results mean you can focus your efforts to deliver the biggest impact on the business. 


How to fix bottlenecks in your supply chain 

There are several approaches you can take to fix bottlenecks once you have identified them using process automation:

Maintain a transparent workflow - You’ve already modeled your processes to establish where the bottlenecks are. Now you can proactively maintain your workflows to provide visibility and clarity throughout all stages of the supply chain. Poor information flow or a general lack of visibility are common hurdles in the supply chain, so a clear workflow can help to solve this problem. 

Transparency throughout your supply chain not only helps to fix any bottlenecks but also helps you to identify the root cause. This means you can avoid encountering the same problem again. It also forms the basis for continuous improvement, so you can be sure that your business processes are always as optimal as possible. 

Bizagi customer Tecpetrol optimized their processes right at the beginning of the supply chain – based around oil extraction – by modeling and documenting over 300 different processes to better manage their 750 oil wells. They are now using these process maps as a baseline for improvement and to identify bottlenecks and areas for potential optimization. 

“Our priority has moved from documenting and modeling to promoting a culture of continuous improvement. Bizagi became a tool to communicate processes, improve and reengineer,” said Teceptrol’s Process Management Project Engineer, Manuel Caride.


Create agile processes - Unfortunately, some bottlenecks cannot be foreseen. The past few years have taught us to expect the unexpected, so even having visibility over your processes isn’t enough. You need your processes to be agile. This means you need to be able to reconfigure processes at short notice, to adapt to varying scenarios, particularly those from third-party suppliers, such as fluctuations in demand or resource changes and challenges.

Using process modeling and low-code process automation platforms as the basis for your supply chain provides an agile foundation to build your operations on. Process modeling by can be made agile by nature as you can make incremental changes within the workflow without disrupting the overall output or end result, but you can alter operations or add capacity. 


Automate manual processes - More often than not, bottlenecks occur when a task is sat with an individual who needs to manually complete an action before it can pass to the next stage. This could be an approval or a task as simple as moving information and data from one system to another. 

Obviously, relying on people to execute certain tasks can also result in a general margin for human error, which can cause further hold-ups or costs. By automating these processes, not only do you save time, but the algorithms and rules that dictate the automation dramatically reduce the margin for error. For the work that needs to be done by an employee, you can make it easier and faster for them to do that work using low-code process applications.

Bizagi customer Kyocera, a multi-national printer and copier manufacturer was able to optimize its pricing approval process by automating tasks within the approval process. This allowed them to improve efficiency, reducing approval time by 85%. Employees now only spend 20 minutes per approval, which allows them to focus on other tasks that provide further value to the business. 


Analyze your data - As previously stated, every supply chain is unique. So, you need to learn from your own history and data. Up to 73% of enterprise data sits idle on servers in the cloud, according to Zdnet. This data should be put to use to benefit the business. 

You can integrate your workflows to pass information to Business Intelligence dashboards, which allow you to gain an overview of data in real-time. This provides the opportunity to identify and fix any bottlenecks that arise.

Additionally, you can use machine learning to look to the future. Passing information in your processes to ML software can identify patterns and trends to help make predictions that allow you to make changes to your workflows for future efficiency.   

Bring resilience to your supply chain 

Connectivity and automation bring the efficiency and agility that so many supply chain operators crave. If you would like to find out more about how a low-code platform can help transform your supply chain, download our free ebook, The Strategic Guide to Supply Chain Automation. 

In addition to insight on how to optimize your supply chain, you will also learn: 

•    3 steps to building more resilient operations  
•    Best practices to tackle the key issues faced by energy and utility suppliers
•    How Bizagi's low-code automation platform has helped leading organizations transform their supply chains