How to implement the Theory of Constraints?

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The Theory of Constraints (TOC) provides a specific methodology for identifying and eliminating bottlenecks, referred to as the Five Focusing Steps. Introduced by Dr. Eliyahu Goldratt in 1984 in his book “The Goal”, the Theory of Constraints, also known as “Constraints Management”, states that every process has a single constraint, or “bottleneck” in manufacturing, that limits its productivity and growth. Thus, TOC seeks to focus on improving this constraint until it no longer limits throughput.



The 5 Focusing Steps of the Theory of Constraints (TOC)

The 5 Focusing Steps of the Theory of Constraints (TOC) is a cyclical process aiming to identify and eliminate bottlenecks. As the name suggests, this methodology is divided into five stages:

1. Identify the bottleneck

The first and most critical step in implementing the Theory of Constraints is to identify the bottleneck, or constraint. This means that you need to observe and understand your production process in order to name its single most significant limiting factor. This could be, for example, a machine, a lack of space or equipment, or even a company policy.

2. Exploit the constraint

Once the constraint has been identified, find ways to exploit it - that is, focus the entire business attention on this single resource and get the most use out of it. There are probably several improvements that can be made to the bottleneck to achieve visible and quick results: for example, performing maintenance in the evening or improve the efficiency by using some Lean tools.

3. Subordinate everything else to the above decisions

After making decisions around the constraint itself, you need to subordinate the rest of the production system to those decisions - that means making sure that all other activities in the process are aligned with the constraint and support its full exploitation. Other resources (non-constraint elements) should therefore no longer work to their full potential but only according to the capacity of the bottleneck in order to keep it as productive as possible.

4. Elevate the constraint

This step of the Theory of Constraints implementation method is similar to step 2, although this time it involves making significant investments to take pressure off the bottlenecks. While step 2 focuses on identifying actions with immediate effects, step 4 of TOC consists of taking other actions necessary to eliminate the constraint. This, for example, may involve drastic changes in processes or equipment. Actions are normally continued at this step of the Theory of Constraints until the bottleneck has been eliminated.

5. Go back to step 1

The five focusing steps of the Theory of Constraints are a continuous improvement cycle. Therefore, once a constraint has been eliminated, the next constraint should immediately be identified and addressed, and so on until the plant is performing at maximum capacity.

However, at Marris Consulting, we advocate the “Constraints' Management” approach. It differs from the Theory of Constraints on one point: instead of operating a permanent constraint hunting, we look for the “least worse” constraint. The aim is to eliminate the constraints one after the other until the "least worse" bottleneck is reached.

Implementing the Theory of Constraints with Marris Consulting

Marris Consulting is an expert company in Theory of Constraints consulting and training. Our operational excellence experts start their Theory of Constraints implementations by performing a quick performance diagnostic of your process, in order to identify the bottleneck and build the adequate roadmap, allowing your company to drastically and sustainably improve its performance. We then provide the teams with training in Theory of Constraints (TOC) and support them in implementing the actions identified during the performance audit. For more information about our Constraints Management consulting and training services, please do not hesitate to contact our teams.


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About Marris Consulting

Marris Consulting is an industry consulting and training company specialized in the Theory of Constraints (ToC) and Critical Chain Project Management. We focus on improving the performance of manufacturing and process industries by using Constraints Management combined with Lean and Six Sigma. To boost project performance, we also use Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM), which we sometimes combine with Lean Engineering. Our 2-day performance audits, our performance consulting services and our project management, Lean, ToC & CCPM training by our industry consultants offer a wide range of solutions to help our clients around the world reach the highest possible levels of performance.

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