Eliminating Bottlenecks In Food Processing | NFI

How to eliminate bottlenecks in food processing

Clever ways to make your workplace more efficient

When it comes to food processing, timing is everything. The time it takes to produce food products and get them out the factory door is paramount for producing a product that earns revenue. Timing is also important when it comes to the shelf life of your food. Some food products need to be processed and packaged fast to prevent them from spoiling before they hit the supermarket shelf.

As the cost of living increases in Australia, so do products, services, and employment. One of the many challenges of food production is finding a way to streamline work processes and make production more economical. Options for reducing the costs of production could include staff cutbacks or selecting lower quality ingredients. Cost-reducing options like these are frowned upon in the industry. Thankfully there are far more ethical options that food producers can consider.

Work processes can be improved. So can staff training. Here at National Food Institute, we’ve seen many benefits to improved staff training. Workplaces can become safer and more cost-effective once all staff are trained properly and consistently. With proper workplace training, we’ve seen effective reductions in costly workplace incidents. We’ve also seen significant improvements in productivity when staff are trained correctly.

One of the production areas that many food producers don’t consider is bottlenecks. In this article, we’re identifying some of the most common bottlenecks associated with the food processing industry. We’ll cover the best way to identify them and some of the best ways to improve your workplace so they don’t happen again.

How do bottlenecks affect profitability?

The biggest impact caused by bottlenecks is the downtime they create. Downtime is the period of time a piece of machinery is out of action or unavailable to use. Machinery downtime can cost manufacturers large amounts of money. In Australia, the average food manufacturer can experience up to 500 hours of downtime each year. So it’s in the best interests of any food manufacturer to keep this number down to stay profitable.

To see how bottlenecks affect your business, there is a simple calculation you can make. First, you need to determine the quantity you’re producing and what you could be producing without machinery downtime. ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software can provide you with a structured view of how processes, data, people, and systems all integrate and affect one another in your food manufacturing business.

With a better view of what’s going on, you can identify where bottlenecks are appearing. ERP software can also be used to review and revise operations. Individual processes can be reviewed. Once you identify weak points, you can start to revamp your entire operations with new work processes and machinery.

Long-term bottlenecks

A typical bottleneck for a food manufacturer could be something as simple as critical machinery that requires urgent maintenance. Another example of a bottleneck could be a key worker getting sick or taking time out for a holiday. These two examples can have a significant impact on workplace productivity and cause major delays to production.

Long-term bottlenecks can vary in the way they impact a business. They can cause minor to major delays depending on how swiftly you act on fixing them.

Systemic bottlenecks

Systemic bottlenecks can be defined as parts of the food production process that cause persistent production delays. A perfect example may be specialised production equipment that causes long queues in production. This type of equipment can cause significant downtime when it breaks down and needs repairs.

One of the best ways to protect your workplace from a systemic bottleneck is to have a contingency plan. You need to be ready for a worst-case scenario. Having a professional staff member on the floor who can repair production equipment may be one solution. Another solution may be to have a professional 24-hour repair specialist who is always free to answer your service call.

A scheduled maintenance service could also help identify issues with machinery before they happen. Regular maintenance could help prevent breakdowns from happening in the first place.

Finding the weakest link

If you’re trying to make your food manufacturing process leaner, you need to identify all the constraints in the production line. Start by identifying the piece of equipment with the lowest net output in your production line. No matter how fast your other machines are running, this one piece of machinery with a low output will slow down your whole production line.

Your entire line of production machinery will never be able to run faster than your slowest machine with a low output. Focus on improving the speed of your slowest machine to start speeding up your entire production line. In the long run, this will have a positive impact on your factory’s profitability.

By identifying the bottleneck (weakest point in the process) and then expediting this process, you actually speed up the output of the entire production line. There is also a lot of technology emerging that is using IOT (internet of things) to monitor equipment at all times. These sensors monitor and record sounds, temperature and vibration in the equipment. AI (artificial intelligence) Software is then used to monitor subtle changes in the operation of the machine.

Once the AI Software understands the “normal state” it can then predict potential changes that may result in a breakdown. This allows maintenance staff to investigate and fix minor problems like leaking seals etc before they become major failures and cause downtime.


Introducing imported ingredients from around the world into your food production comes with its challenges. Global food recalls and regulations have been implemented to improve the quality of food being produced in Australia. These strict measures improve food safety and traceability through the supply chain in Australia.

When a food product is recalled it’s important to have an ERP solution in your food manufacturing workplace. You need traceability options for tracking units across your assembly line. The more efficiently you can track and remove these products, the less damage you will have to your production output.

With an advanced tracking system in your food manufacturing workplace, you can make real-time adjustments. You can adapt to product recalls or issues with contamination faster. Track the step in your production process where there is an issue and you will identify exactly where a bottleneck begins.

Being more agile

Identifying a bottleneck in your production is paramount. But once these bottlenecks are identified how fast can you act to resolve them? As a food manufacturer, you need a carefully thought out change management process in place so you’re ready to adapt. Businesses big and small often struggle to make changes to their production process.

Once you have a structured view of your entire business it becomes faster and easier to plan changes. When you understand the logic behind your processes, systems, and organisational hierarchies, everything becomes clearer. It becomes easier to predict how one small change in the work process can affect everything else.

Learn more from the industry experts at NFI

Here at National Food Institute, we specialise in providing workplace-based training to workers in the food processing industry. All training programs are developed in conjunction with industry representatives around Australia.

Our training covers all the important aspects of food production from cleaning and sanitising equipment to manual handling tasks. It is also our goal to make all of our students become effective risk managers. When safety risks are identified early, they can be eliminated which helps to prevent bottlenecks and delays in production.

When food processing staff are trained with the right methods there are also fewer chances of there being production delays. Our graduates know how to perform the tasks of their job efficiently and safely. So with the right staff training, you can eliminate bottlenecks usually caused by inexperienced or inefficient workers.

To find out more about our training solutions, visit our training page today.

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