Four Simple Tips for a Successful Kanban System

4 Simple Steps for an Effective Kanban System

Kanban Systems or Pull Systems of various types are now common across many industries. They are cheap, simple to operate and can lead to large cost and inventory reductions. Here are some guidelines to help make your pull system work effectively:

accumulation kanban
This board accumulates Kanban cards to trigger ordering of parts.

1. Keep the Lead Time Short and the Interval Frequent

Kanban systems (also known as pull systems) trigger the ordering of materials based on previous usage. The longer the lead time for supply of the parts and the less frequently parts are replenished, the less successful the pull system will be. Implementing pull system goes hand in hand with efforts to reduce batch size and shorten replenishment lead times and order smaller quantities more frequently.

TXM Lean Minute: Learn How Accumulation Kanban Works to Mange Parts Supply

2. Kanban is Not “Set and Forget”

Kanban systems need to be maintained. Regularly review (every three to six months) the settings in the pull system to account for changes in demand, changes in the way parts are delivered or packed or changes in suppliers. You may need to add or remove Kanbans, adjust trigger points or change Kanban quantities.

server racks two bin system
Example of a Two Bin Kanban system. When the bin at the front is empty, the bin behind slides down to replace it and the first bin is replenished

3. Good Shop Floor Disciplines are Required

To maintain an effective Kanban system you must develop a culture where things are always returned to the place they come from. Loosing Kanban cards can also be a major problem. If you don’t have those disciplines,  implementing 5S is a good way to develop them. Keeping track of Kanban cards can be a real challenge.

Some good ideas we have seen include: making someone responsible for system maintenance, making the parts container itself the “Kanban” or reducing the number of cards by using a “two bin” system. This means having only two containers of parts per part number, one container you are using while the second container of parts is either full waiting for use, or in the process of being replenished

TXM Lean Minute: Learn How Kanban Posts Can Help Kanban Cards “Find Their Way Home”

4. Engage Suppliers in Developing Your Kanban System

If your pull system is designed to pull from suppliers you must talk to them and understand their systems and capabilities. Suppliers can have useful input on how to make the system more effective and forcing a system on them is unlikely to be effective and will damage your business relationship.

TXM Article: If You Have Introduced Kanban And Still Have Shortages – Here Are Some Things You Can Do

Effective Kanban Systems are one of the main elements to a successful one-piece flow production system. There are a number of considerations that need to be taken into action to make sure you have a Kanban System that works and delivers results for your business. Contact TXM If you need help understanding or building Kanban Systems

Timothy McLean

Author: Timothy McLean

Timothy McLean is the Managing Director of TXM Lean Solutions and is an author of Lean books.