© 2016 Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press. This review highlights state-of-the-art procedures for heterologous small-molecule biosynthesis, the associated bottlenecks, and new strategies that have the potential to accelerate future accomplishments in metabolic engineering. We emphasize that a combination of different approaches over multiple time and size scales must be considered for successful pathway engineering in a heterologous host. We have classified these optimization procedures based on the "system" that is being manipulated: transcriptome, translatome, proteome, or reactome. By bridging multiple disciplines, including molecular biology, biochemistry, biophysics, and computational sciences, we can create an integral framework for the discovery and implementation of novel biosynthetic production routes.