How does the Kanban system help manage workflow?

The Kanban system is well-known for being able to help increase efficiency and ensure the workflow of a production line is properly managed. Understanding how this is done can help to ensure your facility has properly implemented Kanban, and is getting as much out of it as possible.

Using a Pull System

Many manufacturers use a push-based system, which is when the company decides how much of a particular part or product to make, and then runs the system until that number has been reached. This typically produces a large inventory of parts or products that then need to be stored until they are purchased by customers.

Kanban, on the other hand, uses a pull system. This means that parts or products aren’t made until a customer has ordered them. When the customer has made their order, it initiates, or pulls, the product through the manufacturing process. A pull system requires far less warehousing of products, and virtually eliminates the risk of having excess inventory that either can’t be sold or must be sold at a discount. It also makes it easier to plan out the workflow of a facility since orders are pulled through as they are needed.

Just-In-Time Supplies

Another way that Kanban can improve workflow is by taking advantage of the just-in-time methodology for necessary supplies. This means that the different parts or other supplies that are needed during the workflow process are only brought to the area when there is an actual need. This again reduces the need for excess inventory, and cuts back on how much room is needed for storing any necessary parts. When a required part is running low, it will trigger the parts department to bring what is needed so there is no interruption to the work.

One Product at a Time

One of the biggest workflow improvements that Kanban facilitates is limiting the number of products that are being worked on at a time. Many companies will have their systems incrementally working on many different products or orders at the same time. While this may seem efficient at first glance, it will actually cause more problems than it will prevent.

By having a large number of products in a ‘work-in-progress’ state, the facility is at greater risk of taking a loss due to order changes or cancellations. In addition, it requires that all of these things be stored on-site, which is quite inefficient. Kanban recommends having each order filled completely before moving on to the next, which cuts back on the number of items that are being worked on at any given time.

Proper Implementation of Kanban

Kanban is a great system for increasing efficiency and improving on the workflow of any facility. In order to get the best results, however, it is important to implement Kanban properly. Learning as much as you can about this methodology, and getting everyone to follow the standards, will help to get the results you’re looking for.

 

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Additional Resources

Kanban Guide
 
Lean Manufacturing Powerpoint
 
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