How does Kanban affect mass production?

Kanban is used to operate a system opposite of mass production. In mass production, production is scheduled based off a forecast of customer demand. Taking into account industry trends and historical production data, a number is calculated to represent what demand is expected to be. The schedule is then tailored to ensure enough products are made to meet that prediction. If your demand forecast is always accurate and you are producing the very few variants in product, the push system of mass production will likely benefit your organization. However, predicting demand can be tricky and any changes in product can cause massive delays.

The solution? A pull system. Pull systems, also known as just-in-time (JIT) manufacturing, run production based on actual customer demand; this means any production process is not executed until a customer order calls for it. Companies dealing with large amounts of inventory or many moving parts may think this kind of system is impossible, but Kanban keeps pull systems running efficiently. Kanban originates from the assembly lines of Toyota and is one of the key elements to the renowned Toyota Production System.

A Kanban strategy encompasses different tools (like cards, bins, boards, and electronic systems) to effectively facilitate a JIT production method. To ensure production meets demand on time, Kanban uses physical cue to trigger the steps in the production process, and no process begins without a cue. Unlike mass production, Toyota found that using pull system would keep production level and the line operating smoothly. Because there were not massive amounts of inventory being stored, employees were able to detect defects and fix them before they were sent to the next step.

Never running out of stock and never having to deal with storing old inventory can sound like a far-fetched dream until you start implementing Kanban. Organizations using this strategy may start with a simple 1-card or 1-bin system, but develop it overtime. How ever you decide to begin, remember that Kanban systems positively impact workflow, inventory levels, and the bottom line.


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