In a previous post on how to implement lean manufacturing I discussed the seven wastes, within this post I will discuss the waste of transportation. The waste of transporting the product from one location to another.
The waste of transportation is distinct from the related member of the seven wastes, that of motion, in that transportation is the movement of product from one location to another rather than the motion of the person or the machine.
This is commonly a major waste in many companies, moving of product from one area of the factory to another for the next operation rather than the next operation being adjacent minimizing the movement. To demonstrate the distances travelled within the processes, I once worked on a project to improve the efficiency of a company producing ground to air missiles! The missiles actually travelled further in the production process than they could travel when they were fired!
One of the things that you try to achieve when learning how to implement lean manufacturing is flow of product through the factory. The ideal situation within any process would be the product moving from one process to the next without any gaps or delays. You need to minimize the waste of transportation. Of the seven wastes this is normally a symptom of other wastes, the wastes of inventory and overproduction.
Most factories try to organize themselves into functional areas, one area for cutting, one for machining and another for assembly. This is a common set up within factories. Batches of material are cut in the first section, then palletized, stored then eventually transported on a fork truck to the next section. The palletizing, the storage and transportation are all waste, none of it adds any value to the product that the customer wants to pay for.
A better organization for the shop floor would be to organize the area into product lines using similar processes, that way the individual processes could be brought closer together to enable flow and reduce the transportation. If processes are adjacent would you need to produce large batches? If you don’t have large batches can you just hand or slide the product on purpose build racks to the next process eliminating the need for transportation?
So what we are looking for is the lean approach, which is that of a close coupled layout which enables one piece flow and eliminates the need for transportation.
So if you are learning how to implement lean manufacturing and you walk into a factory and see fork trucks and pallet pump trucks everywhere you look, you can be pretty sure that they have the waste of transportation as one of their seven wastes. For a full list of wastes use this link for waste elimination.