Find The Bottleneck

America has a throughput problem.  How to stick over 600 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine into arms as quickly as possible?

We have written in the past about the logistical challenges of administering the COVID-19 vaccine to the US population—the challenges of manufacturing the vaccines and distributing them.  This is a classic throughput problem, so let’s take the same approach to the problem as we do when trying to shave seconds off of a print cycle. (See “Seconds Matter.”)  Simply put: find the bottleneck.

Production bottlenecks can have you singing the blues too.

On Friday, February 12, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found and removed one such bottleneck in the supply-chain for the COVID-19 vaccine.  In this instance, the bottleneck was quite literally the bottle, or rather, the number of doses per vial.  The FDA granted approval for Moderna to package 14 doses of its COVID-19 vaccine into each vial instead of ten.  Since Moderna supplies half of all vaccines in the US, this simple ruling increased the national vaccine supply by 20 percent, without requiring any changes at any stage of the supply chain.  No new lines were added; no new tooling was required to accommodate larger vials.

The objective in bottleneck-hunting is increased efficiency, as one could easily double throughput by doubling inputs, from raw materials to labor and machinery.  But this also doubles cost, and companies like the rest of us live in a world of constraints, whether they be financial or simply factory floor space.  Finding and removing the bottleneck should initially result in increased output using the same level of inputs.

This is the goal of our Sales Engineers whenever a customer brings a direct-to-shape printing challenge to us and asks, “How can I do this faster?”  Frequently, as we have seen, precious seconds can be found in upstream activities such as part-loading.  (See one such solution here.)  Alternatively, perhaps it is the pretreatment subroutine.  Part-unloading activities may also be the bottleneck.

With our single pass inkjet printers and automated pad printers, we sell machines that can mark thousands of parts per hour.  Generally the bottleneck lies elsewhere.  That’s why we are so much more than a manufacturer of industrial printers.  We also offer a complete line of ancillary products such as inline pretreatment, mechanical aggregators such as waterfall hoppers and racetrack feeders, servo-controlled fixtures, and robotic load/unload.

Have you got a throughput problem? Drop us a line today, and one of our Sales Engineers would be happy to discuss it with you.  At Engineered Printing Solutions, we have helped companies in industries as diverse as automotive, medical device and drinkware find and create value and develop new products.  Let us do the same for you.

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