Kanban / Pull Systems

Do you struggle with managing inventory levels in your company? Are you tired of overstocking and understocking your products? Do you want to improve your production efficiency and reduce lead times? If so, it's time to implement a Kanban system.


What is a Kanban System

Kanban is a visual management tool that helps you optimize your manufacturing processes by controlling the flow of materials and information. It is a system designed to help you produce only what is needed, when it is needed, and in the quantity that is needed; therefore, the main objective of kanban is to facilitate and support continuous flow.

A Kanban system involves creating a visual representation of the production process and inventory levels, which allows the team to monitor production and inventory levels in real-time. The system uses a "pull" approach to production, where products are manufactured only when there is a demand for them. This approach helps reduce inventory holding costs, improve the production flow, and increase the flexibility of the production process. The system is designed to facilitate communication between different departments, suppliers, and customers by providing visual cues that signal when to start, stop or replenish production.

At TMEP, we specialize in implementing Kanban systems for manufacturing companies. Our team of experts will work with you to design and implement a customized Kanban system that fits your specific needs.

A well planned and implemented Kanban system will help you:

  • Increased efficiency: With a Kanban System, you can reduce the time it takes to produce your products by eliminating waste and streamlining your processes.
  • Improved quality: A Kanban System ensures that you have the right amount of inventory, which reduces the risk of errors and defects in your production process.
  • Increased profitability: By reducing waste and increasing efficiency, you can increase your profitability and reduce your costs.
  • Improved communication: A Kanban System provides a visual representation of your production process, making it easier to communicate with your team and identify any issues that may arise.


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How to Implement a Kanban System

Implementing a Kanban system is a straightforward process, but it does require some planning and preparation.

Step 1: Analyze Your Manufacturing Process

To implement a Kanban system, you need to understand your manufacturing process. Start by mapping your production steps and determining the materials and components required for each step. Make note of areas where you see inventory piling up before or after a process or areas that are spending excessive time waiting for inventory. This will help you design a Kanban system that optimizes your inventory levels and production flow.

Step 2: Design Your Kanban System

Once you have analyzed your manufacturing process, it's time to design your Kanban system. Determine the types of Kanban that will be used in your system. These can include production Kanban, conveyance Kanban, and withdrawal Kanban. Establish the triggers that will signal when Kanban should be pulled to replenish inventory. These signals can be visual, such as a Kanban card, or electronic, such as a Kanban board. Kanban cards can be physical cards or digital cards that track the status of each item in your inventory. Kanban boards are visual displays that show the flow of work and inventory levels. Your Kanban cards or boards should include important information such as the item name, part number, quantity, and supplier information. The key is to make sure your system is easy to understand, with clear information about the product, the quantity, and the status.

Step 3: Set Up Your Kanban System

Once you have designed your Kanban system, it's time to set it up. Create designated storage areas for raw materials, work in progress, and finished goods. Assign each product a unique Kanban trigger. Your system should show the status of each task and the inventory levels of each material. Establish clear rules for when to replenish inventory and train your team on how to use the Kanban system including how to read Kanban cards, how to identify problems, and how to respond to pull signals.

Step 4: Monitor and Improve Your Kanban System

Once your Kanban system is in place, you need to monitor and improve it continuously. Track inventory levels, measure production efficiency, and identify any bottlenecks or inefficiencies in your manufacturing processes. Use this data to improve your Kanban system and optimize your production processes.


How to Sustain a Kanban System

Implementing a Kanban system is just the first step. To ensure that it continues to be effective, you need to sustain it. Here are some tips:

  • Regularly Review the System: Regularly review the Kanban system to ensure that it is working effectively. Use metrics such as lead time, inventory levels, and throughput to measure performance. Analyze data to identify areas of inefficiency or bottlenecks and use this information to make necessary improvements.
  • Continuously Improve the System: Continuously improve the Kanban system by identifying opportunities for improvement, such as reducing waste, improving quality, or reducing lead time. Involve employees in the improvement process to encourage buy-in and commitment to the system.
  • Provide Ongoing Training: Provide ongoing training to employees on how to use the Kanban system effectively. This includes how to identify and respond to issues and how to continuously improve the system.
  • Foster a Culture of Continuous Improvement: Foster a culture of continuous improvement by encouraging employees to identify opportunities for improvement and providing them with the necessary tools and resources to make changes.


How to Avoid Common Barriers to Success

Despite the many benefits of a Kanban system, there are some common barriers to success. Here are some tips on how to avoid them:

  • Lack of Commitment: Ensure that everyone involved in the Kanban system is committed to its success. This includes top management, middle management, and shop floor staff. Make sure that everyone understands the goals and benefits of the Kanban system, and that they are held accountable for their role in its success.
  • Poor Communication: Ensure that there is clear communication between all stakeholders. This includes suppliers, customers, and internal departments. Use visual management tools, such as Kanban cards and boards, to improve communication and make it easier to identify issues.
  • Inadequate Training: Provide adequate training to employees on how to use the Kanban system effectively. This includes how to identify and respond to issues and how to continuously improve the system. Make sure that employees understand the importance of their role in the system, and that they are equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to succeed.
  • Lack of Flexibility: Be flexible and willing to adapt the Kanban system to meet changing business needs. This may involve making changes to the system or modifying processes to ensure that the system is meeting its goals.


Tools for Success

Implementing and sustaining a Kanban system requires several tools to ensure success. Here are some of the most important tools you'll need:

  • Kanban Cards: Kanban cards are essential to implementing a Kanban system. They are used to signal the need for more inventory or parts. When a Kanban card is taken from a bin or container, it signals the need for more inventory to be ordered or produced. When the inventory or parts are replenished, the Kanban card is returned to the bin or container.
  • Kanban Board: A Kanban board is a visual management tool that displays the status of work in progress. It shows the flow of work from start to finish and provides a clear overview of what tasks are in progress, what tasks are waiting, and what tasks have been completed.
  • Production Control Software: Production control software is used to manage the production process and track the status of work in progress. This software can be used to create and manage Kanban cards, track inventory levels, and generate reports on production performance.
  • Visual Management Tools: Visual management tools, such as color-coded bins, labels, and signs, are used to make it easy to identify and locate inventory, parts, and tools. They also help to reduce errors and improve efficiency.
  • Performance Metrics: Performance metrics, such as lead time, throughput, and inventory levels, are used to measure the effectiveness of the Kanban system. These metrics are used to identify areas of inefficiency and make necessary improvements.
  • Training Materials: Training materials are used to educate employees on how to use the Kanban system effectively. This includes how to identify and respond to issues, how to continuously improve the system, and how to use the tools and software associated with the system.