Lean Distribution, What is It?

2 Min Read

Lean techniques can be summed up as a continuous improvement effort to identify and eliminate waste wherever it can be found. The term "waste" is used to include any operation that does not add value from the customer’s perspective. Originally used in Manufacturing with an emphasis on production, Lean principles are now used throughout the organization – including the Logistics and Distribution Operations. In a Distribution Operation, waste can result from:

  • Overproduction – Producing / Shipping More Than The Customer Wants

  • Waiting – Not Synchronizing The Work To The Operator’s Availability

  • Transportation – Moving Product From Point to Point Without Adding Value

  • Processing – Adding Value But With Long Setups or Poor Use of Resources

  • Excess Inventory – Storing Large Amounts of Slow Turning Inventory

  • Excess Motion – Inefficient Manual Actions That Can Risk Injury

  • Product Defects or Damage – Using Valuable Time to Handle Damages / Returns

Lean Distribution in Food and Beverage Companies

Many Food and Beverage Companies find themselves involved in distribution strategies that postpone either final packaging or some other operation until the time the product is ready to be shipped to the customer. These strategies, which may include adding value through a re-pack operation or a change in product codes, especially lend themselves to using lean techniques since they usually involve a degree of manufacturing. The goal, as always, is to identify those wasteful operations that can be eliminated or minimized wherever possible.

In a packaging operation, lean techniques also include the following elements:

Organize Processes Into Cells – The packaging processes are closely linked and include all sequenced steps required to build, assemble, or package the final product.

Adopt Single Piece Flow – As each process step is completed, the product is passed immediately to the next process step without waiting for a batch to be completed.

Balance The Line – Different processes on the line will take different amounts of time. Shift the manpower so that long processes are shortened - strive to balance each process equally so that single piece flow will not result in bottlenecks.

Implement Total Productive Maintenance – The basic maintenance tasks such as cleaning and adjusting equipment are performed by production operators. This improves uptime, product quality, and operator accountability.

In conclusion

Maximizing your productivity and lowering your costs involves a Lean approach to your processes and organization. Coupled with the inventory management techniques (covered from prior e-newsletters), you have exactly the tools necessary to improve productivity. The results of these initiatives can be very compelling when an ROI analysis is prepared.