Sources of Waste: Transport

by Jan 5, 2021Continuous improvement

Any transport or movement of a product or material without added value is considered a source of waste among the seven specified in lean manufacturing or Muda (無駄), the latter a Japanese word meaning “wastefulness; uselessness”.

Although the consideration of transport as a source of waste is conditioned by the non-contribution of added value, this condition is often true.

Transport can be from one department to another in the same factory, just like it can be between two factories in two distant countries. The main thing is that transport is a source of costs which the end client should not have to pay. It then inevitably generates a loss, either in terms of operating costs or in terms of competitiveness, and in the worst case, for both.

The costs of waste caused by transport operations are immense, and like most other sources of waste, they are divided into direct and easily identifiable costs, or the tip of the iceberg; and indirect costs, the larger part that is hidden under the water level.

The direct costs are generally generated by the transport and handling operation costs themselves (equipment, vehicles, handling equipment, etc.), the need for personnel and their training and additional space needed to carry out the operations.

Transport can also cause downtime or slowdowns while waiting for the product to arrive, which directly contributes to waste in the form of waiting, covered in another one of our blogs. In addition, the risk of not meeting delivery deadlines is considerable, which fuels the possibility of loss of trust from clients.

Transport is also associated with safety issues since transport is one of the operations where the risk of accident is among the highest. Besides, excessive transport of materials and products increases the probability of damages or the loss of quality (waste related to defects).

Waste due to transport can have several causes and they depend on the organization of each company, but in general, it can be said that the most recurring cause is the poor planning of the installations or layout for the internal transport of the materials and products, and the suboptimal location of facilities in relation to suppliers and customers or clients. In fact, this is one of the most often treated problems in applied operations research in logistics.

A detailed and personalized analysis of each company is necessary to find the solutions best suited to their reality, but generally, a reassessment of the layout, the promotion of the versatility of each production cell (when applicable) and the tackling of overproduction represent the main points of focus for improvement that should be acted upon first in order to eliminate or reduce waste due to transport.

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