Simple, swift, special: just what the milkman ordered

Student at Steinbeis University launches “Milk run” logistics

Shorter processes, more reliable deliveries, lower stocks, faster throughput times, less physical handling – just some of the benefits brought by a project carried out by Sibylle Millich, a master’s student at the School of International Business and Entrepreneurship (SIBE) at Steinbeis University Berlin (SHB). Acting as the coordinator of an in-house project with colleagues, Millich has launched a “milk run” system in the Reutlingen-based department at Bosch which is sponsoring her studies.

Sibylle Millich and her colleagues in the “MFT Department” faced three main problems. Previously, MFT only ordered materials sporadically. But the materials it needed were only delivered on weekdays in the early or late shift. Finished products were not picked up at night or the weekend. The upshot: high stocks. Also, materials came on wooden pallets so wood chips and dirt kept entering clean areas. At the end of the process, finished goods had to be taken to a separate packing room to be prepared for shipping. Overall this meant parts were “wandering all over the place”.

The project team ran a workshop to look at possible improvements. It didn’t take long to work out that changes in isolation would not be much use. What they needed was a new logistical process to solve a few other problems at the same time. So Sibylle Millich sat down with colleagues from other departments to work out a milk run system. Basically, the idea involves only topping up again with the amount of material being used. The team looked closely at value streams of raw materials and finished products in MFT and soon arrived at a new value stream design.

First step: do away with the wooden pallets goods previously came on. They were too bulky and heavy for the milk run trolley to be used for moving materials. This solved the wood chip problem. Now everything was in place to go live with the milk run: the trolley is loaded by an outside company in Kusterdingen which supplies the ordered raw materials, tapes, paste and ceramics. A lorry transports the trolley to the back gate at Bosch where a workshop operator collects the trolley and rolls it to waypoints in the three workshops used by MFT. The operator offloads the raw materials. The trolley, now loaded with empties, is picked up again by lorry and returned to the supplier. Depending on the kanban orders issued by the workshop, the supplier reloads the trolley with goods, thus completing the cycle.

The milk run now makes a tour of the workshops once every shift, every eight hours. “That includes night shifts. Optimizing the process in the sintering room also freed up spare capacity,” says Sibylle Millich. As a result, there are no more overstocks during the week. As a second step, there are now plans to arrange regular supplies of materials at the weekend. The team is currently working on a system for the entire site in Reutlingen.

While they were at it, Sibylle Millich and her team also simplified the to-ing and fro-ing of finished goods within the MFT department. Instead of carting everything to a central packing room, finished goods from two of the workshops are now packed directly during processing. “Previously, goods were picked up and put down five times. Now, once everything’s been inspected it’s laid on a dry cushion in a pre-prepared box, the lid goes on, it’s vacuum packed – finished. Total throughput time is down from two days to less than one,” explains Sibylle Millich.

“We knew from the dummy run that it would work,” explains the foreman, Günter Walker. Cilo Bozkurt, workshop operative in one of the workshops confirms this: “The process is much simpler now, easier to understand and cleaner. We’ve not got any of the wood chips and muck around any more. And we hold much less stock. We used to have boxes of finished goods standing around in the corridor outside the workshop. It’s all gone now.”

Edith Grupp, a member of the project team summarizes: “The overall logistical process is more transparent now and more importantly this has helped standardize reliable and regular supplies to the workshops.”

Source: Bosch KuRT, 09/08


Sibylle Millich
Robert Bosch GmbH (Reutlingen)

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