Assess Your Material Handling

Dec. 21, 2004
15 questions for benchmarking

Looking to gauge your material handling progress? Start with some broad queries, advises manufacturing consultant R. Michael Donovan, Framingham, Mass. He offers 15 questions drawn from his new book, "Lean Supply Chain Management, An Executive's Guide to Performance Improvement," (2003, R. Michael Donovan & Co. Inc.) He says a good way to use these questions is to have appropriate management personnel independently answer them. "Then meet and develop objectives and action plans to take full advantage of improvement opportunities." (He offers a free paperback copy of the book at

  1. Have you thoroughly value stream mapped all processes, documenting the distance traveled for materials from receipt to finished-product shipment?
  2. Do you recognize the following as non-value added work that needs to be eliminated?
    • Receiving.
    • Receiving paperwork.
    • Material counting and moving into stock.
    • Put-away transactions.
    • Picking and kitting activities.
    • Pick transactions.
    • Lift truck and driver to transport material into production.
    • Department material handlers who deliver the transport materials to specific operations.
  3. Have you significantly improved the physical layout of production, warehousing and administrative areas to minimize space used, decrease cycle time and increase throughput?
  4. Do you have specific parts in containers designed to keep the parts organized and always at the same count thereby eliminating counting parts and minimizing storage space?
  5. Does your incoming receiving-to-production issuing of material require a maximum of two moves (preferably only one)?
  6. Is your material feed arranged to quickly replenish the consuming process?
  7. Have you set goals for minimizing both work-in-process storage space and the need for transport equipment?
  8. Is material-handling equipment consistently sized for high-velocity, small-lot production?
  9. Do you make extensive use of gravity-feed mechanisms to minimize material-handling costs?
  10. Do you have a very high percentage of A, B and C parts stored at the point of use?
  11. Do you make full use of multiple "supermarket" storage points to have material close to the consuming process?
  12. Are your material movements activated by a pull/kanban system that minimizes non-value added material transport and storage, decreases inventory and floor space needed and increases throughput velocity?
  13. Does your material continuously flow at high velocity from the beginning to the end of product processes?
  14. Have you achieved at least a 50% reduction in all of the following areas?
    • Receiving to warehousing staff time?
    • Dedicated material-handler time?
    • Operator material-handling time?
  15. Are metrics established for monitoring improvement in areas such as:
    • Material-handling time expended by dedicated personnel?
    • Number of forklift hours needed?
    • Inventory dollars required?
    • Square feet needed to support a defined unit of revenue?

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