Kanban (literally signboard or billboard in Japanese) is a scheduling system for lean manufacturing and just-in-time manufacturing (JIT). Kanban is an inventory-control system to control the supply chain. Taiichi Ohno, an industrial engineer at Toyota, developed kanban to improve manufacturing efficiency. Kanban is one method to achieve JIT.
Kanban became an effective tool to support running a production system as a whole, and an excellent way to promote improvement. Problem areas are highlighted by reducing the number of kanban in circulation. One of the main benefits of kanban is to establish an upper limit to the work in process inventory, avoiding overloading of the manufacturing system. Other systems with similar effect are for example CONWIP. A systematic study of various configurations of kanban systems, of which CONWIP is an important special case, can be found in Tayur (1993), among other papers.
An English-language term that captures the meaning of the Japanese word, kanban, is queue limiter; and the beneficial result is queue limitation. Operationally, then, as process problems are dealt with, the queue limit (or maximum) should be reduced; for example, a former upper limit of five pieces is reduced to four, with queue time in the process reduced by 20 percent.
- START WITH WHAT YOU DO NOW
The Kanban method does not prescribe a certain setup or procedure. You can overlay Kanban properties on top of your existing workflow or process to bring your issues to light so that you can introduce positive change over time. This makes it very easy to begin a Kanban implementation as you do not have to make sweeping changes.
- AGREE TO PURSUE INCREMENTAL, EVOLUTIONARY CHANGE
The Kanban method is an approach to change management that is designed to meet minimal resistance. Therefore it encourages continuous small incremental and evolutionary changes to your current system. Sweeping changes are discouraged because they generally encounter increased resistance due to fear or uncertainty. I call it “baby steps to awesomeness!”
- RESPECT THE CURRENT PROCESS, ROLES, RESPONSIBILITIES & TITLES
Kanban recognises that there may be value in the existing process, roles, responsibilities, & titles. You have existing pieces in the way you do what you do that are working properly and worth preserving. Kanban doesn’t prohibit change, but it doesn’t prescribe it either. If you do make changes, Kanban encourages incremental change. Incremental change doesn’t create the level of fear that impedes progress, which allows you to be broader support for your Kanban implementation. It also makes it easier to implement Kanban. Small course corrections are also just inherently easier than altering the complete process.
The first three principles were chosen specifically to avoid emotional resistance to change – David J Anderson
- ENCOURAGE ACTS OF LEADERSHIP AT ALL LEVELS
Say hello to the newest Kanban method basic principle! It is something that is espoused in many methodologies and the Kanban method is no exception. You don’t need to be a team lead or an executive to be a leader. Some of the best leadership comes from everyday acts from people on the front line of their respective teams. Everyone needs to be fostering a mindset of continual improvement (kaizen) to reach your optimal performance as a team/department/company. This can’t be a management level activity.