What are Kanban cards and how do they work?

The Kanban manufacturing process relies on cards to help ensure the necessary parts and other items are there as they are needed during the production process. Cards can come in a variety of different forms based on the setup that a particular workplace is using. Understanding what Kanban cards are, and how they work, will help with the implementation of this type of system in any facility.

Types of Kanban Cards

From a certain point of view, Kanban cards have been used in the production of products throughout history. A carpenter would keep nails in a box for use in various projects. When the box was empty, he would know that it is time to get some more. The empty box, in this case, would serve as a Kanban card. Since the Kanban methodology has been formalized, however, cards have provided more accurate and precise information.

Historically, most facilities would use physical cards in order to alert people to bring additional supplies of different types. Placing one particular colored card in a visible area along the production line would alert the team to bring a specific item to that area. The card would then be taken down. Other colored cards would alert to the need of different items.

Today, many manufacturing facilities use digital Kanban cards to complete the same goal. A machine may even automatically measure out how much of a given item is available, and when the inventory gets low, it will order more. It may order the parts from a warehouse, or even from a third party supplier. This allows for a very efficient operation that can maximize productivity while minimize the need to have excess parts or inventory on site.

Benefiting from Visual Communication

Kanban cards are an excellent example of how visual communications can benefit a facility. Rather than having to either have someone from the production line go notify the supply team that they need an item, or have the supply team bring excessive amounts of an item out, Kanban cards all things to be sent as they are needed. The supply team can see what is needed from throughout the facility, and respond accordingly. This helps to eliminate various types of waste and ensure production can continue unhindered.


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