In Japanese, the word ‘kan’ means card while ‘ban’ means signal. Therefore, kanban means signal cards. It is a system of continuous supply of components, parts and supplies, to ensure employees have what they need, where they need it and when they need it. Basically, it is an approach to work scheduling.
The system balances the flow of supplies with demand to ensure a smooth workflow in a company. It is essential in Lean implementation as it synchronizes the flow of material and information as required in Just in Time (JIT) production.
Becoming familiar with the system and the options available to choose from is the first step.Some parts of the system may be suitable for you while some may not. In some cases, a manual system may be enough for your type of products, in other cases a computerized system may be the most appropriate.
Planning and designing; the system is not just about manufacturing. Other functions also need to be involved in planning and designing of the system. These include purchasing, warehousing, transport, accounts and engineering. At this step, it is important to keep in mind the main objective of implementing the system which is to, have what is needed, where it is needed and when it is needed.
Set goals; you need to set a schedule with measurable goals clearly spelling out what you want achieved and when. What will be measured and how it will be measured should also be determined.
Implementation; you can start by introducing a number of signals like containers, pellets, boxes etc. all these can then be systematically reduced to the point where the supply of components is in balance with demand.
However, safety stock needs to be available to eliminate chances of interruptions in production. The stock can be used when there are too few containers for production. This trial and error approach will have to go on for a certain period of time to provide for normal fluctuations in production.
The common benefits of implementing kanban are:
- Reduction in inventory; averagely by 25% – 75%, hence resulting into savings in terms of storage space, rent, electricity, personnel etc.
- Eliminates over-production; parts are created only after the signal and therefore stock holding costs are reduced.
- Improved workflow; components are availed and continually stocked for manufacturing activities
- Increased responsiveness to demand changes; kanban reacts to changes in demand immediately as opposed to predictive systems.
- Reduced risk of obsolescence, as inventory is created only when needed.
For some ideas on how Lean and Kaizen supplies might help you in your work environment, we encourage you to visit www.kaizenleansupplies.com. Browse through the products there and see if you don’t come up with some ideas or rather, some products, that might be helpful to you in your lean journey.