While Kanban today is a complicated system of elaborate protocols and operational standards, back in the days in Japan, it had humble origins of sticking cards containing information on various part trays, trolleys, and inventory assets. The cards represent the demand or the lack of it based on which processes and inventory will be managed downstream. Kanban boards are the philosophy of Kanban boiled down to management structures and dashboards. It is simply a board that is used to establish proper Kanban practices at work.
The Japanese automobile company, Toyota created the Kanban system to have lean and pull-based inventory management practice. The main advantage of using the Kanban system is that it allows for absolutely lean operations and optimizes the consumption of resources and boosts the productivity of the manufacturing line. The Kanban board is a set of lists that contain backlogs, to-do items, and ongoing activities. It is a simple way of keeping tabs on all the processes within the organization. Some of the various steps involved in the Kanban system are mentioned below.
- Assessing and planning for the entire work content. This includes risk assessment and preparing for any faults or errors. Breaking down of large, complicated tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks.
- Determining the resources, time and manpower to be allocated for each task or chunk of activity.
- Planning a proper workflow and improving upon the deliverables.
- Each item in the workflow must be analyzed for errors and additionally a standard needs to be established for efficiency. Incremental yet continuous improvement is the last step of Kanban.
Benefits of implementing Kanban system
Companies which are unable to experience the complete benefits of the Kanban system are usually so because of improper or incomplete application of the process. The Kanban method is backed by research, and numerous studies have shown the positive impacts of Kanban.
- Flexibility of Kanban boards: The Kanban system is nothing but a method of efficient communication and signaling. It can be used across multiple industrial sectors and is extremely flexible in application. This means that companies can choose to make minor adjustments in the Kanban board to suit their organization’s culture and work practices better. Added to this, Kanban systems are completely compatible with scaling and can easily adapt to changes in size and extent of operations.
- Continuous improvement: Continuous incremental improvement is one of the core features of Kanban. All the processes must be continuously audited for quality and productivity, and minor flaws should be continuously identified. The clear visual format of Kanban allows project managers to see how the workflow is progressing and make the necessary changes and improvements. To achieve more than the set standards is one of the core principles of Kanban
- Improve productivity and reduce costs: Since Kanban is based on the pull or generation of demand, the inventory that is maintained is completely lean, which results in cost saving. Added to this, Kanban optimizes all the process, checking their resource consumption and enhancing their productivity.