Kanban is a workflow method to manage and visualize your work progress and can be used for increasing your efficiency.
Kanban is a framework that is used to develop and implement an agile software environment. It is one of the most popular and widely known methods among the software teams all around.
This word means ‘billboard’ or ‘signboard’.
But many people have a misconception about the working of Kanban. Thus, this article is here to help you all get a fair idea of what Kanban is and how does it work. Let first get started with what the exact meaning of Kanban is-
Table of Contents
What is Kanban?
Kanban is a process for maintaining efficiency in production.
It works practically by drawing a comparison between the planning of the work and the amount of execution taking place in the workplace. If any disturbances are found during the process, Kanban helps in overcoming that issue in the production.
Kanban is a very effective method for maintaining an efficient inventory through its demand-pull concept, i.e. Based on customer’s choice.
The History of Kanban
Before the 21st century, the companies were focusing on generating more and more products irrespective of their demand in the market. The reason for this was the implication of the demand push method, where the product was the center focus.
As time changed, the focus shifted; now the customer was the “king”.
The change in production could be seen as the concept of demand-pull, production based on customer’s demand came into being in the 21st century.
In this while a method for maintaining the effectiveness in the service was seen coming in power, i.e. Kanban. Hence, Kanban slowly became the favorite tool for management in the production processes.
The Origins of Kanban
Even though Kanban is used by people more and more in recent times, the original conception of Kanban occurred 50 years ago. In the late 1940s, the Toyota company brought this methodology for optimizing their engineering and marketing processes called “just in time” manufacturing.
These optimizations were based on the concept of how the supermarkets stock their shelves.
The production procedure considered the demands of the customer rather than just manufacturing goods and pushing them to the market for sale. This brought the minimization of waste and an increase in productivity.
Let us now understand how the Kanban system works-
How Does Kanban Work?
In simple words, let’s take an example to explain the working of Kanban.
Kanban is a way to communicate and link your display shelves, a warehouse, and the supplier.
Now imagine that a particular product has been sold out in the store and there are no more products to be displayed on the shelves. So, the person in charge of this shelf will give a signal to the warehouse.
The warehouse will immediately send these products to the respective store. Having done that, the warehouse person will check whether they still have a good quantity of that product or that product number in the warehouse has reached a critical level.
In the case of the latter one, they will send a signal to the supplier, who will immediately dispatch another set of products to the warehouse. This is how a simple Kanban framework works.
The most common form of Kanban is a card where the data is digitally printed. In some places, instead of cards, even golf balls were also displayed. In recent times these cards and golf balls are replaced with e-mails, electronic dashboards, etc.
Where can Kanban be implemented?
Kanban can be implemented in every sector of business.
Be it the Information technology, medical, Production, Management, etc.
It can be used in any industry for generating excellent results and quick, smooth work.
The Principles of Kanban
Working with the Kanban system is based upon some of the fundamental principles, and in this section, you will get to know about those. David J Anderson, who is a pioneer in this field, has come up with the best methodologies for developing the Kanban system.
This efficient Kanban-style can be easily divided into 4 principles which are briefly discussed here.
1) Principle 1: Start with What You Do Now
Kanban is a very flexible system, and thus whenever you implement the Kanban workflow, you need not disrupt your previous work. Whatever you have done before the implementation of Kanban will be intact and even the optimizations required after Kanban will not affect the previous work.
Also, you can quickly introduce this system in any organization as it is very dynamic and you won’t have to make any significant changes right from the start of any project.
2) Principle 2: Agree to Pursue Evolutionary and Incremental Change
The Kanban methodology has the least resistance because as mentioned above, it has a very dynamic form. Instead of making any significant changes it encourages to have minimal, incremental and evolutionary changes so that everyone can cope up with it in due time.
3) Principle 3: Respect the Current Process, Roles, and Responsibilities
The Kanban system recognizes the present processes and roles and responsibilities which are at play. Having these things in mind, it allows for minor changes without affecting the entire system.
4) Principle 4: Encourage the Act of Leadership at All Levels
This principle is the latest one on the list, and this acknowledges the fact that most of the best leadership comes from the everyday activity of people. Thus, it comes with a lesson that everyone in the team must begin with the mindset of going through continuous improvements for getting the optimal results in all the levels of the team throughout the organization.
Apart from these four principles, there are also six practices of Kanban for the successful implementation of this methodology in any company.
This system comes with plenty of benefits, and thus some of the important ones are listed below:
- Here the short time cycles can end up giving the results faster
- There is a considerable likability to change in this framework
- Kanban is an ideal environment for frequent changes in priorities
- There is always a balance between customer demand and the productions in Kanban methodology. This always keeps the organisation or company working on the customer-centric features
- Kanban takes very fewer changes in terms of companies or room set up to get started
- It reduces a lot of waste products and removes all the activities which are of no use to the company
- There is a system of rapid feedbacks in Kanban, which improves the working and performance of the team members. It keeps them motivated throughout
- It maintains smooth functioning of plans, i.e. one plan at a time
- It helps in analyzing the time management between production and its distribution
- It helps in minimizing any disruption in the process
- The overall going comparison between the past and the present work helps in adapting the best perfect way every time
- Resources are utilized and less wasted under this method, i.e. Kanban method
- It helps in maintaining a great customer relationship in the business.
Here is a video by Marketing91 on Kanban.
How to Have an Effective Kanban System
Having a proper Kanban system will increase the productivity of any company and thus, Toyota has laid out the following points to have an effective Kanban system in your company. So, let us have a look upon those as well-
- The customer processes will withdraw items as the same amount mentioned in the Kanban.
- The supplier will also produce items as the amount mentioned in the Kanban.
- None of the items will be made or moved without a Kanban.
- Every item must be accompanied by a Kanban every time.
- The defective items must not be sent to the next downstream process that is towards the customer process.
- The number of Kanban needs to be carefully reduced to lower the level of inventories and figure out the problems.
Key Points to Remember while adopting Kanban System
Four significant points need to be taken into account before using the Kanban process. They are as follows:
- It needs to be executed at the current stage only
- It demands flexibility in decisions by the user
- It acts only upon the manufacturing system and not the organizational system
- It requires the quality to lead and treat people equally
Six regulations of Kanban System
- Maintain the Kanban to do sections virtually
- Maintain the smooth process taking place in the present work
- Removal of unhealthy course of work
- Policies should be flexible keeping in mind about every person’s interests
- Keeping a check on the process from time to time and adapting changes accordingly
- Maintaining efficiency among the various process and methods going with Kanban
These are the six guidelines to be followed by the user of Kanban for effective functioning.
Thus, it is evident that this 50 years old framework is a very effective method of waste management and efficient productivity in any company or organization. We hope that this article has given you a clear idea of the Kanban framework and the working.
Kanban is a process that is the talk of the business world today. Everyone wants to use Kanban for making their work more organized and quick with fewer efforts. Kanban is the best way for increment in the quantity and quality of one’s work.
By adeptly using the Kanban system of working, you will be able to find out the potential bottlenecks in your business procedures, and then you can fix those on time, so your workflow does not get hampered and continues moving cost-effectively in a result-driven manner.
Three fundamental principles upon which you should always pay attention to while implementing a Kanban system of working are-
- The workflow in which you visualize what you do today
- WIP in which you limit the amount of work which is in progress
- Enhancing the flow, so when one task is done, the next thing from the backlog comes into the processing unit
That is all about the Kanban system of managing the work.
How important do you consider the Kanban system for improving the efficiency and productivity of a business model?
Do you also think that Kanban is the best strategy for ensuring the best possible workflow? Share your views with us in the comments below.
Liked this post? Check out the complete series on Operations Management