KANBAN - A Brief Introduction

Posted by vivek 21/03/2017 0 Comment(s) Quality System,

KANBAN - A Brief Introduction



Kanban is an inventory management system that controls the supply chain. It is a Japanese word which means ‘signboard’ or ‘billboard’ or ‘visual signal’. The idea of Kanban was triggered from a supermarket. It was noticed that items would be ordered only when they are about to exhaust. Thus inventory levels were aligned with actual consumption. Mr. Taiichi Ohno, an industrial engineer at Toyota, Japan, used this concept to develop Kanban with aim to improve manufacturing efficiency, and achieve lean manufacturing andjust-in-time manufacturing  (JIT). Kanban helps in limiting the amount of inventory tied up in “work in progress” on a manufacturing floor.


The system uses pictorial visualization to comprehensively and effectively communicate the orderly flow of goods, materials and information throughout the manufacturing process. A signal tells a supplier/preceding manufacturing stage to produce and deliver a new shipment/material when it is consumed.  These signals are tracked through the replenishment cycle, bringing visibility to the supplier, consumer, and buyer; thus help in managing the even flow of production and even distribution of work during various manufacturing and transportation stages. Kanban for manufacturing stages is called ‘P-kanban’. Kanban for transportation stages is called ‘T-kanban’. 



Features and Advantages of Kanban: 


  • Compatibility with other systems: Kanban system can be implemented along with other lean manufacturing  methods, like   5s, and kaizen, to achieve significant benefits for almost any type of activity

  • Efficiency: Kanban is faster, more efficient, and saves significant money

  • Responsiveness and customer orientation: Kanban system is also far more directly responsive to customer demand in terms of quality, availability of variants and least stock of obsoleted products

  • Production planning: Kanban is a system that visually indicates when production should start and stop

  • Inventory Management: Kanban helps reduce inventory, thus significantly saving in terms of rent, electricity, and storage space. The parts are produced upon getting visual signal by the kanban labels, thus minimising the possibility of overproduction

  • Improved workflow: The visually organized environment ensures all parts are easily found and continually stocked.  The speed of moving from one task to another is significantly reduced by the creation of clearly marked flow lanes,   kanban cards, and clearly marked labels.



Following are the core stages of Kanban implementation: 


  1. Visualisation of workflow: In Kanban the first step is to visualize the current process in order to understand the complete sequence of activities and see where the bottlenecks are. The idea is to split the work into pieces, name each stage, write each item on a card/sticky notes and put on the wall to illustrate where each item is in the workflow. 
  2. Limit WIP (work in progress):  Next is to introduce WIP limits and start a path of evolution that may or may not modify or replace your current process over time.  An explicit limit to number of items in progress at each workflow state need to be assigned. It may sound odd, but it will help finish work more quickly. As opposed to multitasking at a given point of time. limiting your work in process can help finish more work, more quickly as you are able to concentrate job in hand.  
  3. Measure the lead time: Based on the existing factual data,  provide the average time to complete one item/step.  This is also called “cycle time”. Gradually optimize the process to make lead time as small and predictable as possible.


Leave a Comment