Material Handling in Lean Operations

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International Journal of Production Research Vol. 48, No. 10, 15 May 2010, 2975–2993

Managing lean manufacturing in material handling operations
James C. Green, Jim Lee* and Theodore A. Kozman
Engineering Management Program, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, P.O. Box 44170, Room 244 CLR Hall, Lafayette, LA 70504-2250, USA (Received 17 July 2007; final version received 8 January 2009) The problem addressed by this research is to implement lean manufacturing in a material handling system of a petroleum drill bit manufacturing company. Lean manufacturing has been mandated by higher level management as a tool to be used in waste reduction. Operational group must define the objectives of lean manufacturing and deploy the tools to specific work cells. A methodology that provides operational group with a tool to assist in defining the objectives of lean manufacturing is developed. A case study is used to demonstrate the lean implementation in material handling operations. Keywords: material handling; lean manufacturing; case study; value stream mapping; diamond drill bit components

1. Introduction The proper flow of materials through manufacturing processes allows industries to generate and maintain a competitive edge. This edge is the ability to meet customer demand for on time delivery, generating good customer satisfaction. The proper selection of material handling systems and manufacturing concepts such as lean manufacturing (Hobbs 2004) help to facilitate increases in productivity. Lean manufacturing is based on the elimination of waste, both value added and non-value added, from the processes that are used to produce goods and services (Feld 2001). These lean tools also contribute to creating a safer and more ergonomic work environment. Material handling is defined, simply, as moving material. This is the popular perception that many hold, but in fact material handling includes much more than simply moving material. For a significant number of manufacturers, material handling can account for more than one-half of the total cost of manufacturing. The flow, movement, and storage of materials in the manufacturing processes of firms often require a great deal of resources, both employees and equipment. Material handling is also regarded as being a non-value added function that is still necessary for the successful completion of the manufacturing process and can have a marked affect on the ability of a firm to meet managerial goals (Myers and Stephens 2000). The cost generated by material handling systems can be reduced if steps can be taken to improve these systems. Productivity and the incidence rate of injuries, specifically lost time injuries, can also be improved by positive changes to material handling systems.

*Corresponding author. Email: jlee@louisiana.edu
ISSN 0020–7543 print/ISSN 1366–588X online ß 2010 Taylor & Francis DOI: 10.1080/00207540902791819 http://www.informaworld.com

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J.C. Green et al.

The problem addressed by this research is to implement lean manufacturing in a material handling system of a petroleum drill bit manufacturing company. Lean manufacturing has been mandated by higher level management as a tool that will be used to assist in waste reduction. Operational group must define the objectives of lean manufacturing and deploy the tools to specific work cells. A best practice of lean manufacturing implementations is to approach the event slowly by implementing in a single pilot cell and then continue to spread to other areas of the organisation (Wilson 2008). Our case study will be limited to the implementation of the developed methodology and lean manufacturing principles in a single cell to support the use of this best practice. A review of lean manufacturing literature related to materials handling is presented in Section 2 of this paper. Based on the methods and tools available, a methodology is developed in Section 3 which can be...
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