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The term milk run may bring cows, farms and sentimental thoughts to mind, but there’s a reason the updated concept is beneficial to your business.

Why Is It Called a Milk Run?

Don’t let the old-school name put you off. The milk run method might solve your delivery and efficiency woes. The Milk run got its moniker from the milk industry practice wherein a single tanker goes to different dairy producers every day to collect milk and then deliver it to the milk processing firm.

This ensures that there’s a regular supply of fresh milk and that overstocking is prevented. It also ensures just-in-time delivery and reduces the possibility of waste and material damage.

How Does It Apply to Material Handling?

Using the Milk Run method has become quite common for many lean manufacturing facilities. Remember that the lean concept focuses on optimizing every aspect of production including material handling and transportation.

The Milk Run method simply allows more frequent deliveries of materials and supplies to more than one area that needs to be re-stocked. Often this helps reduce the levels of overstocking or having to manual call for more materials.

It also keeps production processes flowing across a shop floor which drastically reduces downtime. This is why it is regularly applied to optimize a supply chain.

Deliveries are most commonly made to areas that are in constant need of being re-supplied. These delivery routes are normally timed out during the shift to operating at peak efficiency, to ensure that the assemblers can continuously assemble according to production schedules.

The operator will pick up their materials at a central warehouse or “supermarket” and then follow the route delivering or dropping off the material to the assemblers at different points.

What is milk run system?

These deliveries are most effective and efficient when completed by a system.

In a larger set-up, there will be more material handlers back at the storage area preparing the next milk run route so the driver can easily begin his next delivery route. Whereas in smaller operations this is completed by the same material handler/driver.

Thus, the method used in preparing the next delivery route usually depends on the size and practices in a factory or warehouse.

Generally, the steps within a milk-run route can be reduced down to:

  • Loading
  • Handling of Materials at the drop stations
  • Traveling

The biggest challenge when initially setting up Milk Run routes is the design and creation of the routes and the timing of the intervals. This is because it’s the determining efficiency factor when establishing the method.

Lot of testing, experimenting and time goes into the process before you get it right. The area of the route and the distance from the storage area to the different delivery points all play a big role in the effectiveness and efficiency of such a route.

Also, the amount of demand your delivery points would generate and how often they would need to be re-supplied. This can be difficult to manage and implement because many times a production schedule is unknown and can be fluid. So, the final Milk Run plan must consider these factors and the effect of real-time occurrences.

The aim is efficiency

It might take years of practice and modification until a milk run is operating at peak efficiency. Brimich Logistics is more than happy to work alongside organizations, increase their success, and implement milk run routes into their material handling practice.