7 Lean Wastes – Transportation

What is the Waste of Transportation?

By definition, the waste of transportation is any movement of materials that adds no value to the product. Thus, any movement of items via forklift, truck cart, or your arms and legs is waste. However, even the movement of materials using an automatic conveyor also considered a waste of transportation because the conveyor consumes resources such as space and energy.

Some examples of transportation wastes are:

  • Moving finished goods to storage
  • Moving work in progress to the next step
  • Moving work between functional areas
  • Moving parts to the line
  • Moving parts to inspection

Transpiration waste is often overlooked as normal or acceptable in many manufacturing environments, but it should be seen as the waste that it is.

Unfortunately, many assume that transportation waste only applies to manufacturing areas. However, transportation waste is often prevalent in office environments as well. Walking around to get signatures on documents and filing paperwork are common forms of transportation waste in the office.

What Causes the Waste of Transportation?

Ultimately, any process or circumstance that encourages or requires the movement of material is a driver of transportation waste. A common cause of transportation waste is outdated plant or office layouts which aren’t optimized to lessen transportation. Another cause is large batch production. Large batches require excessive effort or equipment such as forklifts to move items between processes. Finally, large inventories often require and even encourage excessive transportation by normalizing the movement of materials.

Cost of Transportation

Often neglected, but extremely important, is the cost of transportation waste. Many times, the cost of transportation increases the lead-time of our processes due to transportation delays. This can be thought of as waiting losses.

There’s also involved labor and equipment cost for moving materials. People may be required to create things like transfer orders. There’s also the cost of forklifts and pallet jacks that also require fuel and that too is another cost.

Even in office environments, the waste of transportation can slow processes down similar to a manufacturing environment since there is no added value in documents being shifted from desk to desk.

Tools to Battle Waste of Transportation

Fortunately, we have a few power tools for reducing transportation waste. The first thing that can be done is to rearrange our factory or office into a cellular layout where material flows in a consistent manner. Taking it one step further it would be optimal if the one-piece flow concept is adapted.

Multi Process Handling Line

Img 1. Multi process handling line that facilitates flow.

  1. Batch and Queue Layout

    This is where each station builds in large batches and pushes their inventory to the next station. This pushing requires transportation since these batches cannot be transported by one person and requires assistance.

    Batch & Queue Layouts

    Img 2. Batch & Queue Layouts require the transportation of inventories

  2. Fake Flow

    This is where transportation is reduced when compared to batch and queue but because things are not balanced, since as you can see the operator on the left has four pieces, the waste of transportation would still be obvious.

    Fake Flow

    Img 3. Fake Flow

  3. One Piece Flow

    The most optimal flow is called One Piece Pull since no work takes place unless the downstream customer asks for it. Furthermore, all work is balanced to takt time so the maximum amount of inventory that needs to be handled is one piece, which dramatically reduces the amount of transportation needed.

    One Piece Flow

    Img 4. One-piece flow

Another effective way to reduce the waste of transportation is to have clear material replenishment routines outlined. Though there are still the waste of transportation in the system the waste is greatly reduced by the standard ways of picking jobs and the excellent visual management that comes with these systems.

Water Spider System

This system gets its name for the water spider which is a beetle that moves about in the water rather than on the surface of the water. A common misperception of the water spider position is that it is merely a funny term for a simple material handler. On the contrary, the water spider needs to be thoroughly knowledgeable about the materials, tools, and processes they are supporting.

Many lean thinkers consider the water spider role as a rite of passage to becoming a supervisor as it requires intimate familiarity with the cadence of production and flows across work cells and the materials and tools necessary at each station. This is a critical role in making continuous flow and a smooth lane system a reality.

Point of Use Storage & Direct line delivery

Two methods that can be combined for extremely powerful results in reducing transportation waste are point-of-use storage and direct line delivery. The result of these two methods mean that all the tools needed to carry out a job are always available and the person doing the work never has to leave his work area to get their supplies.

Spaghetti Diagrams

Spaghetti diagrams are used to understand the current condition of a process and find opportunities to improve them. This diagram got its name because when you draw the movement of people and materials through a process and join them together it looks like a plate of spaghetti. Simply put, we move back and forth, wasting precious time and energy.

Spaghetti Diagram

Spaghetti Diagram

A spaghetti diagram is a versatile tool that can be used to analyze any process that involves the movement of people, materials, or other goods. Often times it is used to study a layout of a workplace showing us that we can make many trips back and forth every day without even thinking about it.

When an action or process is adding only cost and no value is said to be a waste of transportation. Creating a spaghetti diagram can help trace waste of motion and transportation in the workplace. Many times we may think that our activities are connected and flowing smoothly but when you use a spaghetti diagram to follow the people doing the actual work, you’ll be surprised to discover that chaos describes the real situation.

Using a spaghetti diagram can help us improve productivity and reduce logistics and handling costs. This can also help reveal the causes for excess in inventory due to layouts or work methods that cause us to batch in order to avoid walking to and from. This can also point out safety risks due to repeated non-value-added movement of materials and people.

The spaghetti diagram is also a key part of reducing change-over times. There is always downtime when we move from one task to another.

How to Create a Spaghetti Diagram

Spaghetti diagrams are used to understand the current condition of a process and find opportunities to improve them. This diagram got its name because when you draw the movement of people and materials through a process and join them together it looks like a plate of spaghetti. Simply put, we move back and forth, wasting precious time and energy.

All that you need is a piece of paper a pencil and a keen eye to observe a certain process. You can then print out a layout of the room that’s being studied. If this is isn’t available then you can go ahead and make a sketch of the room. Once this is documented, it’s now time to put pencil to paper.

Each time the person you are observing moves from one location to another, draw a line on the map reflecting how they moved. Circle and number each step they make Every time your subject goes to the same location, add a new number. Write these numbers down on a separate piece of paper, making sure to jot down notes about what you observed your subject was doing.

You should also take note of any safety issues and any ideas that come to mind for improvement. It may also help to ask what was happening at a point in the process. You may also want to share this task with 2 or 3 team members since this would make the observation process a lot easier.

Once the spaghetti diagram is created use the following questions to guide your next steps:

  • How many activities add value?
  • Where do we see transportation, motion, waiting or rework?
  • Where do we see hand-offs that could be reduced?
  • Which activities can be eliminated?
  • Which steps can be combined?
  • Which steps can be resequenced or rearranged?
  • Which activities can be simplified?
  • Where can activities be started earlier?
  • Where can activities be done in parallel?

Once these questions are answered, you can now decide how to rearrange the equipment, supplies, timing and any other factor to improve the process. After making some changes, give the new process a try while observing and drawing another spaghetti diagram. You should find that there are fewer lines that intersect and the process should look smoother and easier to understand.

It is highly recommended that you do this with a pencil first rather than a pen since you’re most likely to make corrections as you go and refine the process even more. Once you’re absolutely sure and completed your diagram, you can use a pen or marker to make the lines bolder and easier to see.

Remember the lines don’t have to be straight, that’s not the point. The spaghetti diagram is not supposed to look like a blueprint. Done correctly, it should be quick and dirty rather than slow and pretty.

About the Author:

Aaron is the Marketing Director at Falcon Fastening Solutions, Inc. He is focused on sharing Falcon's unique approach to fastening and class C production component supply chain solutions with equipment manufacturers.

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