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4. Kanban

Introduction to Kanban


Kanban is a visual process and project management tool first developed in Japan by Toyota. Kanban is a way to visualize your work and limit the amount of work in progress at any one time. KanBan is often seen as a central element of “Lean” manufacturing and is probably the most widely used type of “Pull” signaling system. Kanban stands for Kan- card, Ban- signal and as you probably guessed, is of Japanese origin.

Simply described a “pull” production system controls the flow of work through a factory by only releasing materials into production as the customer demands them i.e. only when they are needed. A “push” system on the other hand would release material into production as customer orders are processed and material becomes available, MRP (Material Requirement Planning / Manufacturing Resource Planning) systems are typically “push” systems. What must be made clear at this point is that Kanban is not a scheduling system but rather a production control system.

Kanban has three core principles:

·         Start with what you know - Don't try to reinvent the wheel right away. Visualize what you have now.

·         Pursue incremental, evolutionary change - Once you can see the current state of your work, visualize how to improve it.

·         Respect the current process, roles, responsibilities & titles - Don't make drastic, sweeping changes without getting buy-in from the rest of your team. Remember, Kanban is a collaborative process.

Kanban is based on five core properties:

·         Visual workflows - You can't understand what you can't see.

·         Work-in-progress (WIP) limits - Limit multi-tasking. By limiting your work in progress, you can actually get more done and do it better.  Multitasking, and especially task switching, may make it seem like you are getting more done, but in fact you are wasting a lot of time between tasks, forcing your brain to refocus.  Kanban is a great way to see the work needing to be done and systematically work on just one or two of the most important things until they are done.

·         Enhanced workflows - Continuously improving the way you work makes you more effective and more happy.

·         Agreement on process policies - Decide how you want to manage your team's kanban using feedback from the team.

·         Data-driven collaborative improvement - Changes should be made based on the scientific method instead of "gut" feeling.

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