Kanban, an inventory control system created by Toyota Production System “father”, Taiichi Ohno, is a Japanese concept that translates to “signboard,” and is directly related to lean manufacturing and Just-In-Time (JIT) production.
Kanban’s scheduling procedures ensure that companies understand what is needed, when it should be produced, and how much should be made. Ohno said that kanban is one way by which JIT production is accomplished.
Because grocery stores don’t have the warehouse space to store immense supplies of inventory, Toyota originally looked to supermarket shelves in the late 1940s as a model for their inventory system and for their unique stocking techniques in order to get an understanding of the importance of providing inventory to customers at just the right time when it is needed. As a result, Toyota used this process to control their rate of production originating in the demands of the customer and flowing through the supply chain even up to materials sources.
First used in the machine shop of its main plant, the TPS spread kanban throughout its production processes.