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Everything You Need to Know About Lean Transportation

by Surya Narayan
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Starting a business is a complex endeavor that involves numerous considerations, including ensuring the quality of products, sourcing materials, logistics, and developing strategies. While there are many resources available to help entrepreneurs, one critical aspect that is often overlooked is transportation. Transportation plays a vital role in most, if not all, businesses. It is essential for shipping materials and delivering the finished product to customers. Ensuring that raw materials and products reach the right place at the right time can significantly impact a business’s success.

Transportation also affects internal operations within a manufacturing plant. During the product development process, materials may move from one area or team to another. In a previous article, we discussed Lean Logistic Principles, a philosophy focused on eliminating waste and maximizing value, hence the term “Lean.” This article will delve into how these principles can be applied specifically to transportation, highlighting the concept of Lean Transportation.

Applying Lean Principles to Transportation

There are five core Lean Logistic Principles:

  1. Determining Value
  2. Understanding the Steps in the Process Chain
  3. Improving the Process Flow
  4. The Customer’s Pull
  5. Reaching for Perfection

Several of these principles can be directly applied to transportation to enhance efficiency and reduce waste.

Determining Value and the Customer’s Pull

Value is a fundamental aspect of any business. By understanding what constitutes value, businesses can focus their efforts on activities that enhance it, leading to reduced costs and increased earnings. In transportation, value lies in the customer experience. Developing a transportation strategy that meets and exceeds customer expectations is crucial. This strategy should be tailored to address the specific needs of your customers, ensuring that their experience with your transportation system is seamless and satisfactory.

Understanding the Steps

The Lean philosophy emphasizes eliminating waste and maximizing value. Waste includes any activity that does not directly contribute to value for the customer and the company. To identify wasteful practices in your transportation system, it is essential to understand the steps involved. Whether transporting raw materials or delivering finished products to customers, each step must be scrutinized.

Excessive transportation is a common waste. Overproducing inventory that customers are not willing to buy or unnecessary internal transportation within a facility are examples of wasteful practices. By understanding each step in the transportation process, businesses can identify and eliminate these inefficiencies.

Improving the Process Flow

Once waste has been identified and eliminated, the next step is to improve the transportation process flow. One effective strategy is to implement daily event management. Start each day with a transportation plan and monitor activities throughout the day. At the end of the day, analyze the data to identify areas for improvement.

Daily event management provides visibility into the transportation process, allowing businesses to make informed decisions and continuously refine their strategies. This iterative process ensures that the transportation system becomes more efficient over time.

Reaching for Perfection

While perfection is unattainable, the pursuit of perfection drives continuous improvement. Regularly monitoring and improving the transportation process flow is crucial. By consistently identifying and eliminating waste, businesses can enhance their transportation systems, leading to better performance and higher customer satisfaction.

Wastes in Lean Transportation

Several types of waste can occur in transportation. The first is an excess of inventory. Overproducing inventory means that customers are not willing to buy all the products being created, leading to unnecessary storage and handling costs. Producing only what customers need ensures that resources are used efficiently.

Another waste is related to the layout of the facility. Products often need to be transported between different functions within a plant. If the layout is inefficient, with widely separated stations, it leads to wasted time and effort. By optimizing the facility layout and placing related stations next to each other, businesses can reduce transportation waste and improve efficiency.

Benefits of Lean Transportation

  1. Reduced Costs: The primary benefit of Lean principles is reduced costs. Eliminating waste leads to immediate savings. For example, by reducing excess inventory and optimizing transportation routes, businesses can lower procurement and shipping expenses.
  2. Increased Employee Productivity: A Lean process removes roadblocks and unnecessary steps, allowing employees to work more efficiently. This increased productivity leads to faster completion of tasks and higher output.
  3. Increased Profit: Reduced costs and increased productivity contribute to higher profits. Spending less while producing more efficiently ensures that businesses can maximize their earnings.

Lean Transportation Transforms Businesses

Applying Lean principles to transportation systems can transform businesses for the better. Although improvements may take time to manifest, the long-term benefits of increased efficiency, reduced costs, and higher profits are well worth the effort. By continuously striving for perfection and eliminating waste, businesses can enhance their transportation systems and overall operations.

True North Lean: Your Partner in Lean Transformation

For businesses looking to implement Lean Transportation, True North Lean is there to help. Founded in Cambodia, True North Lean is the fastest-growing Lean consulting firm in South and Southeast Asia. They specialize in helping businesses apply Lean principles to their operations, including transportation systems, to achieve significant improvements.

Contact True North Lean at vijay@truenorthlean.org or visit the website at www.truenorthlean.org for more information on how they can assist you in your Lean transformation journey. Embrace Lean Transportation today and experience the positive impact it can have on your business.

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