Kanban

Origins

The Kanban methodology has its roots back to the 1940s, at the time when Toyota introduced the “Just-in-time” production into their manufacturing regime. During then, Toyota started employing a pull system which was based on consumer demand in contrast with a push system that throws products and services into the marketplace. This was also the beginning of the lean methodology which is principled on the elimination of waste and reduction of non-value adding activities from the manufacturing process. This culture has brought to light the use of Kanban methodology which is a scheduling system aimed to improve the manufacturing efficiency.

The six rules of Kanban

  1. Each process issues a request in the precise amounts specified by the Kanban.
  2. Each process is made according to the precise amounts and sequence specified by incoming requests.
  3. No items are produced or transported without a Kanban.
  4. A Kanban should always accompany the item it is associated with.
  5. Defects should never be forwarded to the next process.
  6. The number of pending request should be gradually reduced to improve inefficiencies.

Implementation

1. Visualize the workflow

Here, you will need to visualize the whole flow of work and how raw materials turn into the finished good that reaches the end consumer. In order to do that you will need a board with cards that represent a work item and columns that represent a step in the work process.

2. Limit work in progress

A main principle of Kanban is that work in progress activities are limited. In this step, any activities should be carefully reviewed before they are moved to the work in progress section.

3. Manage flow

This principle is focused on developing a smooth workflow with quick turnaround times and little average production cycle time. This can be achieved by focusing on the workflow and all the processes that compromise it; from the time raw materials arrive until finished good is delivered.

4. Make process policies explicit

Here, it is important that all policies are clearly defined and communicated to all workforce. Remember, that policies must always be understandable.

5. Feedback loops

One of the most important steps in the Kanban system is feedback loops.  Regular meetings, such as standup meetings and management reviews are highly encouraged. Regular communication between the team can greatly impact the efficiency and effectiveness of the work process.

6. Improve collaboratively

The last principle of Kanban is collaboration. Without effective communication between teams and departments within a company, the efficiency of the workflow cannot be improved. So, ensure that you use all available tools and techniques, such as meetings and calls, to enhance communication within the organization.

Benefits

The Kanban system has been popularized for the many benefits it can offer to the manufacturing process and the whole organization. Some of the most notable ones are:

  • Improved efficiency in the manufacturing process
  • Increased flexibility
  • Two-way communication among the company
  • Elimination of bottlenecks
  • Shared goal, vision and mission by all employees
  • Enhanced employee motivation and morale
  • Improved customer satisfaction
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