A strategic approach for bottleneck identification in make-to-order environments: A drum-buffer-rope action research based case study

Aitor Lizarralde Aiastui, Unai Apaolaza Perez de Eulate, Miguel Mediavilla Guisasola


Purpose: This study is focused on integrating a strategic perspective for bottleneck selection and exploitation according to the DBR methodology. The researchers developed a systematic process of four steps for the implementation of the first two steps of TOC-DBR in Make-to-Order production systems. This process was derived from the seminal work from Goldratt, introduced key insights from Resource Based View (RBV) and Practice Based View (PBV) strategic perspectives and included original contributions from the authors in understanding what purpose should be fulfilled, what decisions should be made and how the four steps should be applied.

Design/methodology/approach: Given the practical nature of the research project, action research (AR) is an appropriate methodological approach, since AR aims to contribute to academic research while helping solve real-world problems.

Findings: The proposed systematic process has been successfully tested in the field on a Make To Order case company. Thus, it has been answered the research question regarding systematically selecting a bottleneck and exploiting it to enhance the competitive advantage/firm performance. In fact, the new way of selecting and exploiting its bottleneck improved the results of the company, in particular business turnover and profitability. Additionally, the research process complied with the necessary criteria to assure the research quality required for AR.

Originality/value: The key contributions within the systematic process (on Make-to-Order companies) are two: (1) the criteria to select the bottleneck, far beyond a load versus capacity perspective (i.e., providing a strategic perspective that was inspired by the main concepts from the Resource Based View regarding the contribution of strategic resources to sustain competitive position) and  (2) the detailed discussion on how to exploit the bottleneck, which was aligned with the Practice Based View and recognised that practices could also provide superior performance to organisations.


drum–buffer–rope, theory of constraints, Make-to-Order, strategic decision, action research

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.3926/jiem.2868

Licencia de Creative Commons 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Journal of Industrial Engineering and Management, 2008-2024

Online ISSN: 2013-0953; Print ISSN: 2013-8423; Online DL: B-28744-2008

Publisher: OmniaScience