Standardized material handling routes are a key cog in the lean manufacturing wheel. When properly implemented, these standardized routes will help any production area run like clock work. Timed schedules and level loads are the driving force behind this method of material delivery. These routes should be used for finished goods, components and sub-assembly areas.

Standardized Finished Goods Routes

The driving force behind a pull system is the finished goods pull. Pulling parts on a consistent basis keeps a steady flow of kanbans going back to production. This helps to levelize the build in the production area.

In order to levelize the work load in the shipping area, standardized routes must be established. Through the setting up of even pulls, your workload will be balanced across your shifts (whether you are 1, 2 or 3 shifts). Equipment utilization will be equal across all shifts and space requirements should be kept to a minimum. Also, if properly set up, the system should be designed to throw up flags when staging times are not met. This should give you time to react and avoid missing shipments.

Component Standardized Material Routes

Of the 3 standardized material handling routes, component delivery will require the most attention. In order to keep the production area running, components will have to be at the work station when required. Failure to deliver one of the required components will most likely result in a work stoppage.

The key aspects to consider when planning these routes is the material handling device required to move the product and the time it will require. The material handling device will depend on how much product you are moving at one time and the combined weight of all the product being delivered. The choice between manual and power equipment may also be dependant upon time required to complete a cycle.

The idea is to have a material handler travel a set route, pick up kanbans from pre-determined areas and retrieve the matching components. The parts are then delivered to the work areas and the cycle repeats itself. The cycle should be a timed cycle, for example, each cycle may require 27 minutes. The material handler should be repeating the cycle every 27 minutes. If not, it would then become the supervisor’s responsibility to determine what has gone wrong and get the material handler back on schedule.

Sub-assembly Material Handling Routes

Sub-assembly routes are a combination of both finished goods and component standardized material handling routes. The pull from the downstream process will generate the replenishment for the upstream process. In this manner, it is similar to the finished goods pull. The delivery of material to the production are that requires it will be similar to the component delivery route.

Regardless of the route, having the correct number of kanbans in the system, along with the schedule, will be the keys to success.