constraintconstraint - - The factor that ultimately limits the performance of a system or organization. The factor that, if the organization were able to increase it, more fully exploit it, or more effectively subordinate to it, would result in achieving more of the goal.
Perspective: The existence of system constraints, and the fact that organizational performance can be improved by identifying and carefully managing or eliminating the constraints are the foundation of TOC.
Illustration: In "The Goal" the company could not produce orders fast enough to meet market demand and two resources were limiting factors: the NCX 10 machine and a heat treat furnace. These resources were the constraints for UNICO. As UNICO exploited and subordinated to, and eventually elevated, both resources, UNICO's profits increased. As UNICO continued to exploit the performance of the constraints they eventually had the ability to produce more than their customers were buying and the constraint shifted to the lack of customer orders, i.e., the market became the constraint. UNICO then had to shift the approach of the company to exploit and subordinate to this external constraint.
See:elevate, exploit, five focusing steps, subordinate.