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Theory of constraints

The 'Theory of Constraints' was first described by Eli Goldratt in the early 1980s and has since been used extensively in industry. It is a set of thinking processes that use cause and effect logic to understand what is happening and then to find ways of improving it. It is based on the simple fact that multi-phase processes, in whatever setting, can only move at the pace of the slowest step. The way to speed up the process is to use a catalyst to work on the slowest step and make it work at capacity to speed up the whole process.

The theory emphasises being clear about finding and supporting the main limiting factor. In describing the theory these limiting factors are called 'constraints'. Constraints could be an individual, a team, a piece of equipment or a local policy, or the absence of some tool or piece of equipment.

The five essential steps in the TOC thinking process are:

1 IDENTIFY the system constraint. What are the main bottlenecks?
2 GETTING THE MOST of the constraint as currently operating by recognising that throughput is governed by the speed of the constraint.
3 SUPPORT the constraint by finding different and better ways for the constraint to work and remove tasks it does not need to do.
4 ELEVATE the constraint within the system so that all parts of the system understand its importance and work to get the most out of it.
5 GO BACK TO STEP 1 and start over again in a continuous process of improvement. Remember that the original constraint will have changed!

For information about TOC contact

Belinda Phipps
Telephone 01923 260905

For information about TOC generally

Helen Gibb
Ashridge Consulting Ltd

Telephone 01442 841193
Fax 01442 841260


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