What is Kanban software?

By Jon Richardson
20 Mar 20

Kanban is a visual signal used to trigger action. Toyota introduced and refined the use of kanban in a relay system to standardize the flow of parts in their just-in-time (JIT) production lines in the 1950s.

It was originally developed by Taiichi Ohno, an industrial engineer at Toyota, and takes its name from the colored cards that track production, manage inventory and order new shipments of parts or materials that will be consumed. Kanban is the Japanese word for “Sign,” so the Kanban System simply means to use visual cues to prompt the action needed to keep a connected process flowing.

In the most efficient manufacturing companies today Kanban is used as an inventory control system used in Just in Time Manufacturing in order to connect processes and promote a Pull System.

Kanban Today

Many industries have used the Kanban principles and techniques for many years now, and it has proven to be very effective. I have personally worked with and experienced thousands of processes utilizing a Kanban signal concept to connect processes, control production, and manage material flow.

Today’s factories have become very reliant on their Kanban Systems to be accurate and effective. Many of our processes and operations run very lean and must have an accurate Kanban system in order to maintain a continuous flow of products. The success of factories and processes today depends on the success of a physical Kanban Card and the execution of launching a Kanban signal. This is an essential part of an effective JIT pull system.

Kanban & Waste

In my experiences, I have observed hundreds of occasions when a machine or operator is idle waiting for material to run. How many times have you observed a process or machine idle waiting on material? Nothing is more frustrating to me than watching labor and machine availability wasting away waiting for material.

Once you begin to dig into these situations and issues to determine root cause, you will begin to understand what is needed to eliminate any potential recurrences. It can become very alarming how reliant we are and how imperative it is to our process, and the execution of a physical Kanban Card system is done precisely. Many of these occurrences of wasted labor and wasted machine availability are due to simple failures such as a missing or lost Kanban Card, or the failure in manually executing the Kanban Card or Sign.

Why Kanban Can Fail

The Kanban or signal process is a very effective tool and concept. However, this very critical process is sensitive and has multiple failures that can have devastating results on our processes. Though this Kanban process is not new nor is this workflow complicated or complex, it can bring significant failures that are inherently manually executed.

Fortunately with the power of today’s technology, tools like kanban software enable the industry to leverage best practices to eliminate these frequent failure modes and re-occurrences.

With these modern tools and technology, frequent interruptions of manually executed systems (that are the cause of so much underutilized labor or machine availability) can be eliminated through the use of kanban software to autonomously control and send the Kanban Signal at the precise moment in time.

Kanban + Lean Manufacturing = Dream Team 

Kanban plays a huge role and acts as more than just a sign or signal in today’s Lean manufacturing, and using kanban software can add significant value as it is combined with other lean concepts.

    • Takt Time- (Rate of Customer Demand / Level Load)
    • System- (Continuous Flow /Connect Processes)
    • Heijunka- ( Level Load / Balance Work)
    • First Time Quality- (Scrap Reduction/Rework/Over Processing)
    • FIFO- (Improved FIFO Processes, Eliminate Waiting)
    • WIP- (Reduction of Work in Process)
    • Inventory Turns – (Increase Raw Goods Inventory Cycles)
    • Jidoka- (Stop/Identify Problems and Eliminate Waste)
    • Standards- (Eliminate Variation)

Utilizing the Kanban principles with a Lean Execution System allows entire sites, value streams and processes to be connected autonomously, and more importantly eliminate the many causes and simple failures that are inherent in a physical kanban card, and manual execution of signal.

See how L2L's Lean Tools can digitize the elimination of waste and problem solving in your manufacturing plant.


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