Theory of Constraint

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There is a church that I attend that holds dinners during the holidays. The church prepares some of the food itself and people bring some food as well in a potluck fashion. The dinner is free to all participants and you do not necessarily have to bring anything. From the time the guests start arriving, there is about an hour until the dinner is actually served. Although this time can be used for conversation, some of the food gets cold. Therefore, it would be better to eat first while the food is still hot and have time for conversation after the big dinner.

Throughput in this example could be thought of as the dinner itself. There are many processes that must be completed before a plate can be served and the ultimate goal, or throughput, could be represented by the completed dinner plate. The inventory would be all the items that go into making the food or that are used to serve them. This could include the food that the church prepares itself as well as the items that individuals bring to contribute to the dinner. It could also include plates, forks, and spoons and all the kitchen equipment that is needed to prepare the meal.

The operating expenses can be thought of as the costs of holding inventory as well as the time required of the church staff and volunteers to prepare the dinner. It could also include the expenses related to the building and kitchen equipment. The church operates from donations so it is vital that they make the most effective use of their funding. Even things like promotion of the event and the fliers that were printed could be considered as part of the events operating expense.

There are several bottlenecks that prevent throughput from being more efficient. One of the first bottlenecks identified is that when people bring food that put it all in the same collection area. After all the food makes it to the collection area then it goes back to the kitchen and is sorted and grouped into different categories to be served. After it is grouped it is moved again to a buffet style serving table. This is the slowest part of the entire process and it is time consuming to group and serve the food.

To address this bottleneck, it might be more efficient to take the food directly to the serving table and completely skip the kitchen step. The table could be pre-categorized with signs and the guests who brought food could simply…

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