Curious Cat Management Improvement Dictionary: Drum-buffer-rope

Drum-buffer-rope - a way to manage a system given the theory of constraints model. The drum beat from the constraint sets the pace for the system. The other parts of the system adjust to keep the constraint operating optimally.

The buffer is used to smooth out the variation, see the first few resources below for examples. Then when the constraint needs input it can be provided immediately, which allows the constraint to work optimally (even if that means other parts of the system have to sub-optimize to support the constraint).

The beer game is a training exercise that shows what can happen without a drum buffer rope strategy. Variation is increased by the systems response to variation in orders which leads to many problems (increased inventory, delays in getting orders to those that truly need the products, stress on workers and the system...).

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