Kanban is Japanese for signboard (visual card or sign), and is a sign based scheduling system used in Lean manufacturing (developed at Toyota), and Just in Time Manufacturing. I must admit I worked for quite a while in a Lean organization before I worked out what everyone was talking about with Kanban. It can be a little daunting to get your head around (especially if the first thing you see is a Kanban card), but is actually not too bad to get your head around.
One of its core aims is to minimise the amount of Work in Progress in the process, by only producing what is needed at each stage.
The six Kanban rules
Toyota developed six rules to be followed for your Kanban card based production system to be effective. These are:
- Later process pick up the number of items specified by the Kanban
- Earlier processes produce items to the method of the Kanban
- No items are moved or created without a Kanban
- All items should have a Kanban with them
- Defects are not sent to the next stage
- The number of Kanbans are gradually decreased to gradually make the process more Lean