Should You Use Physical or Digital Kanban Cards?

One Process Kanban LoopKanban and similar pull systems like CONWIP or POLCA are basic parts of lean production. They limit the maximum number of parts by attaching a sort of token (i.e., the kanban card) to the part, and return to the beginning when the part leaves the system.

These kanban can be physical cards or digital representations. In this post I look into when you should use a physical kanban and when you should use a digital kanban.

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Anatomy of the Toyota Kanban

While Toyota did not invent the pull system, they did invent kanban, the genius idea of using cards of paper (and later other forms of information) to create a pull system for mass-produced goods. I recently was able to take pictures of Toyota kanbans, and would like to show and explain them to you.

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How to Ramp Up a Kanban System – Part 2: The Switch

fotolia_on-air_trimmedIn my last post I described how to prepare for the implementation of a kanban system. This post goes into more detail on the actual change to the new kanban system. You surely know that every part should have a kanban. But what do you do if you have more kanban than parts? What do you do if you have more parts than kanbans? Find the answers below.

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How to Ramp Up a Kanban System – Part 1: Preparation

Simple Kanban LoopDesigning a kanban system on paper is much easier than implementing it on the shop floor. In many of my previous posts I discussed the design of a kanban system in detail. In these two posts I will discuss the steps needed to actually put the system on the ground.  This first post is the preparation, and my next post will be the actual switch to the new kanban system.

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Kanban Card Design

kanban-card-pileA kanban is, in its basics, information to reproduce or reorder parts. Hence, in its most basic form it has to say “make me this part” or “bring me this part.” While such very simple kanban systems are possible, usually it helps to include other information on the kanban card. In this post I want to talk about the design details of a kanban card, especially what kind of information we should include on the card. Please note that the items on the list below are suggestions. Which ones you actually include depend on the system you want to establish.

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Supermarket vs. FiFo – What Requires Less Inventory?

Supermarket vs FIFOTo create pull production between two processes, you can add either a FiFo lane or a supermarket. In one case you will have the FiFo as part of a bigger kanban or CONWIP loop, and in the other case you split the value stream into two different kanban or CONWIP loops.

Some questions that I have been pondering are: Which one has less inventory for the same delivery performance? Is it better to use a big loop or two smaller loops for the WIP and delivery performance trade off?

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Theory and Practice of Supermarkets – Part 2

grocery store market supermarket retail shop
How to use supermarkets correctly …

In my last post, I described how supermarkets work in theory. But while knowing the theory helps, actually creating a working supermarket is much more difficult. Are there situations where supermarkets are not so useful? (Hint: Yes!). And what is needed to have a working supermarket? Let’s find out!

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Theory and Practice of Supermarkets – Part 1

Supermarket in Brazil
All about supermarkets…

Kanban, FiFo lanes, and supermarkets are the backbone of many pull system. Some people even define lean production through its use of kanban and supermarkets. Yet why are supermarkets so useful? First we will look at what exactly makes an inventory into an supermarket. My next post will then give tips and hints on the practical use of supermarkets on the shop floor.

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