You might not be familiar with the word kanban, but you are probably familiar with the process. Many businesses and homes already use an organizational system that is loosely based on kanban without even knowing it. Simply put, kanban is a visual organizational system. The point of this, and really any organization system, is to keep products stocked and running in an even manner. Kanban is a way of providing signals so that the process of maintaining inventory is simplified.
The word kanban comes from Japan and means billboard or signboard. This word is used because kanban relies heavily on cards that are used as markers for moving and replacing inventory. The whole system centers around these visual cues that help you maintain inventory at the proper levels so that you never keep too much or too little of your products or materials in stock.
Most kanban systems rely on cards and bins. The system is a simple act of placing bins on the floor of your factory, one in the store, and one with the supplier. When these bins are empty, employees see a card that has all of the details about the product on it: the kanban card. When the factory bin is empty, it can be easily sent to the store for more of the product, along with its kanban card. The same process then happens at the store. As the store’s bins are emptied, they go to the supplier to be refilled.
This system helps materials and products flow through your processes smoothly, reducing wasted time and materials.
When most of us think about a company like Toyota we immediately think of success. However, we also think of that success as based on innovations in the design of cars and not necessarily the production of them. In fact, the success of Toyota has as much to do with improvements in production. As developers of the kanban system, Toyota leaders figured out one of the best ways to reduce costs was to cut out the amount spent on inventory and lag time. The system, driven by consumer demand, has been and continues to be part of their success.
A testament to this success is the use of kanban systems in all sorts of industries and offices. Even in homes, kanban is a way to ensure you have the things you need on hand all the time.
Implementing kanban into your workplace is a great way to improve productivity. The system is a relatively simple one that lets current demand dictate supply. When materials in one area run low, the system takes action to replace them. Each bin in each separate location alerts another bin to the need for more materials. You will never wait for materials to arrive because someone forgot to place an order. The system reminds everyone. You will also never have to spend time and money storing materials or worry about those materials becoming obsolete while in storage. Instead, the dynamic system of kanban keeps materials fresh and supports the constantly changing needs of manufacturing.
Remember that the only blocks to success with the kanban system are the ones you set. An important step in the process is maintenance and evaluation of goals. If you do not maintain the system and show your employees how to maintain the system, you are destined to fail. Always improve it; always find ways to be more efficient. If you can do that, you will reap the benefits like Toyota does.