(This is the fifth in a series of deeper dives into the 8 lean wastes.)
We recall the definition of waste: any activity or result that the customer doesn’t value and is not willing to pay to have. The activities that don’t add value for the customer within the processes of converting raw materials/energy into finished product for the customer must be removed or minimized.
That being said, there are also going to be activities that the customer doesn’t care about yet are somewhat necessary to the production of their finished product. Transportation could, in some situations, be considered as such.
Transportation is the touching/moving/relocating of raw materials, tools, finished goods, etc. for use at different stages of a process. Transportation is related to motion, as transportation is primarily movement of items where motion is movement of ourselves (through stretching or walking or turning, etc.) to items or different locations.
Transportation is a waste because the time/energy/effort required to move items is something the customer doesn’t care about and doesn’t find important, even if it’s necessary. It wastes time because operators are dedicating available seconds of the work day to moving items from one place to another. It wastes energy and resources in that employee time could be better utilized and because some tools used for transportation (forklifts, trucks, pallet jacks) consume energy like electricity or propane. Also, by dedicating machine/operator time to waste activities they are no longer free and available to take on value-added activities.
Where will you find excess transportation? Perhaps you have operators that have to walk a short distance to place parts into a box or bin. Maybe the food service truck bringing hot dogs/buns/soft drinks to the ballpark delivers them to a refrigerated unit on one end of the stadium when they’re actually going to be used at the opposite end. Any time material is moved from one spot to the next is an opportunity to reduce wasteful transportation.
So how can excess transportation be eliminated? When mapping out current processes, identify and quantify the use of transportation and figure out ways to minimize it. Can processes be placed closer together? Can replenishment or getting more materials be conducted with a shorter distance? If items are picked up, moved, or transferred often, are there ways to make those movements less frequent or move more material less often?
The key takeaways about reducing/eliminating excess transportation include a) putting raw materials/components right where they will be used so retouching/moving doesn’t occur, and b) reducing distance between source of materials and where they are to be used.