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FAQ - How to Implement Kanbans - a step by step guide

The use of kanbans can made huge improvements to a company such as dramatically reduced lead times, lower inventory and reduced administration costs. Before implementing kanbans, however, there are some important warnings. Kanbans are an execution tool, but they are essentially backward looking, replacing what was used. Kanbans provide no forward visibility about the need for people, material and equipment. In a simple company kanbans can be supported by sales and operations planning using rough cut capacity planning to provide the resource plan. The material has to be provided either by good kanban arrangements with suppliers or safety stocks. In larger and more complex situations a full MRPII or ERP material planning system is essential to support kanbans. Therefore, unless the company has a very simple product and a steady and predictable order book, kanbans should only be implemented if, and only if, there is a good material planning system in place.

When implementing kanbans, the first step is to educate everyone involved in the use of kanbans. Because kanbans are different from the way most people are used to working, everyone using kanbans must understand the rules otherwise they are very likely to undermine the kanbans. The rules are simple:

  1. Make or move materials and products when, but only when, there is a kanban signal (a space in a rack, a kanban card etc.)
  2. Never pass on a known defect but pass it back to the person who passed it to you.
  3. All work in kanban areas must be under kanban control, no "squirrel" stores.

Start by implementing internal kanbans where appropriate. Kanbans work best where there is the same or similar products being manufactured repetitively. Kanbans also work where components are the same or similar and can be replenished by kanbans.

Once you have started internal kanbans, speak to all your suppliers to find any that already have kanban arrangements with other companies. Use these to get a quick start with supplier kanbans.

Once kanbans have been established, start to educate customers in the use of kanbans and form kanban partnerships with them.

For more information purchase the e-book “World Class Manufacturing” - click here for more information. The e-book costs 4.95 (about US$9).