Analysis and improvement of material handling in a highly customized multi-variant product-based production system

University essay from Högskolan i Jönköping/JTH, Produktionsutveckling

Abstract: Twenty first century manufacturing is characterized by customer specific products. Customers expect greater differentiation in the products that companies offer to them, thus changing the whole landscape of production. Greater the variety of products being offered to customers, greater is the complexity of shop floor operations. This complexity is translated to all the operations in the shop floor including material handling and inventory control. To overcome this situation, many manufacturers have turned to “Lean Manufacturing” to gain a competitive edge in the market by reducing costs and improving productivity in all operations throughout the shop floor. Therefore, this purpose of this thesis is to analyze the material handling of a highly customized multi-variant product-based production system. The thesis represents a case study that was done at a caravan manufacturing company in Tenhult, Sweden. During the study, data was gathered from field notes, observations and multiple semi-structured interviews. The findings were analyzed with respect to a theoretical background which was generated through an extensive literature review that was carried out throughout the research. Our analysis was based on a systems approach where the findings were categorized into three dimensions that affect material handling and inventory control. These dimensions are warehouse management systems, culture, and production management, which contribute to successful implementation of lean into the material handling operations and inventory control. In conclusion, the results show that efficient material handling and inventory control can only be achieved by finding a synergy between technology, people and organization. Our results also show that soft issues like organizational culture and employee culture need to be addressed along with technological issues because only when an alignment between people, technology and business objectives and values is achieved, lean implementation can be successful. Our results also show the need for better supplier customer collaboration to reduce inventory levels and material handling operation.

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