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How to reduce waste in transportation

By: Grant King - IndustrySearch Writer
29 April, 2015

In order to manufacture, you have to move things. Components in the manufacturing process have to be made somewhere and moved to your line.

Products rolling off the end of your line have to be moved to customers or somewhere else for further work. Your main office and kitchen have deliveries coming and going all day long.

Stuff is constantly in transit, and the bigger you get, the more stuff you'll have on the go. But while it is, it's of no value. In fact, it's doing nothing but waste time, delay progress and cost you money.

Transportation is a necessary evil, but you should exorcise as much of it as you can. Here's how.  

Don't source your materials from the moon

No joke, many manufacturers simply have preferred suppliers for whatever reason – be it loyalty, policy or plain habit – and those suppliers are often unnecessary long hauls away. Yes, they may offer bulk discounts and be the most reliable business associate on the planet, they may also have become a friend.

But if getting their components to your line is costing you in downtime, you need to do some logical logistics. Can I source the same materials nearby? If so, can I buy smaller, more regular quantities to synchronise with my needs? Even if you pay more per item, chances are the wastes of line idleness and transport you offset will more than make up for it.

Maximise milk runs

Every time a single component is transported from A to B it arrives with a built-in burden – its freight cost. But what if you did your homework and discovered other components could be made at factories in the same general area.

For example, if five different components could be collected from five factories and transported on the same truck, the overall freight cost would be slightly higher, but the cost per component would be significantly lower. The truck may be going from A to C, D, E and F before it gets to you at B, but its general direction is still B and your components are effectively carpooling.  

Keep everything at arm's length

People aren't trucks, but they still carry components on the last part of their journey – from storage to production line. If that journey is repeated hundreds, even thousands of times a day, every extra metre will cost you kilometres in travel time over the course of a single day.

So make those journeys as short as humanly possible – no more than arm's length. If the entire stock can't be stored within arm's reach of the production chain, move pallet loads at a time to where it can.

If your chain configuration won't allow this, change the configuration. Working with a rusty chain will only cost you in the long run. Stop everything and fix it. The extra speed and efficiency you generate will quickly make up for lost time and power your production ahead.  

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