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Production Flow Element – Kanban

Kanban is an important part of a flow, or pull, system and is a “sign” that production must act to fulfill an order. When an item (or last item from a group) has been taken, the kanban signal is returned to the production cell to indicate a replacement is needed.

The physical kanbans can include:
– a card
– an empty square on the floor
– a box
– a trolley
– a light

In a supermarket, a card, box or trolley are the most likely types of kanbans. This will depend on the number of parts in the supermarket and their size.

Regardless of the type of kanban , each one must include enough information to understand:
– where the kanban has come from / returned to
– where the kanban needs to go to
– what is needed to be made (part numbers, qty)

Implementing a kanban system will highlight many problems in Production. Set stock levels and reorder lead times will test your initial parts analysis and production data. Audit the system regularly to check all kanbans are present and they are where they should be.

When problems arise, daily problem solving is needed to determine the short term fix and root cause. The challenge is to face these problems understanding that solving each one will help to create a more robust kanban system; it doesn’t mean that the kanban system isn’t working – it is highlighting the production fluctuations and variation that wasn’t identified in the original analysis.