The term “pull system” is often used as a synonym for “Just-in-Time Manufacturing”, or JIT manufacturing. This is a control-oriented system focused on producing smaller batches and eliminate wastes in the facility. That includes smartly stocking supplies and products and avoiding the need to store excessive amounts of inventory. Essentially, a pull system is the idea that the manufacturing steps should not be started until a specific signal is given, contrasting the traditional push system. The push system is common in Western countries and dictates production based on a forecast of what demand will be. While it can sometimes be successful, it will often lead to waste in the workplace. On the other hand, a pull system has flexibility built into it and businesses will have an easier time to respond to changes in demand. Other benefits that result from implementing JIT manufacturing or a pull system include reducing overproduction, eliminating waiting time between processes, and reducing costly inventory of materials.
A common example and great illustration of a pull system is using the strategy of Kanban cards. A Kanban system uses visual cues to signal when a particular action should occur and is often a link between two departments in a manufacturing facility. For example, a specific card is sent form the shipping department to the assembly line requesting a certain number of products. The cad will trigger the action and work will occur exactly when it is needed. Other visual tools that will aid in implementing a pull system are a Kanban board, floor marking, and shelf markings. Utilizing a visual management system in the workplace can greatly affect the amount of waste in the manufacturing process.
To learn more about the use of Kanban cards and starting a one, two, or three bin system, check out our in-depth Kanban article! You will learn about Kanban’s history, how to use it in your facility, and recommended training.