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A Quick Introduction to Kanban

Language is the primary means of communication between people, but words can fall short of fully conveying an intended message — especially in the workplace. Every day, people process more visual information than written, and at a much faster rate. This line of reasoning led to the creation of an organizational system that relies more on visual cues to understand and control workflow, called Kanban.

Kanban was created by Toyota engineer Taiichi Ohno toward the end of the 1940s. Looking to improve productivity, Toyota studied various supermarkets and made interesting discoveries. Clerks replenish items as needed based on current stock and demand. Also, clerks use physical signs that let others know when to place orders to vendors. Supermarkets don’t buy more than they anticipate selling, which keeps production costs low; Toyota adapted this “Just-in-time” (JIT) system for their business practices.

Translating to “sign” or “card,” Kanban uses visual aids to keep track of supplies and manage employee responsibilities. The use of “Kanban cards” promotes transparency between employees; these cards can signal when supplies are running low, or if someone needs assistance on a certain task. Due to the highly visual nature of Kanban, employees become more mindful of the work they accomplish, minimizing excessive labor and muda, the Japanese concept of “waste.”

Kanban centers on clarification and focus. When companies create visual aids to use in their workflow, it lets employees see the bigger picture: they can see the queue of tasks, which of those were completed or need completion, and what challenges arose during the manufacturing process. Kanban limits Work-in-progress (WIP) and alleviates much of the stress involved with different tasks, regardless of how daunting they may seem at first.

When running at peak efficiency, Kanban promotes the ongoing development of the company by measuring its workflow, throughput, and employee efforts — all of which helps a company become stronger and a more knowledgeable resource for its clients.

Prime Products supports our customer’s use of Kanban to provide you, our valued clients, with high-quality goods accentuated with the best service possible. We not only assist with your setup (selecting bin size, number of bins, replenishment lead time, etc.), but also work with your buyers and online MRP systems to schedule these bin shipments as needed. We use our own MRP system to trigger the replenishment of bins that have shipped, to ensure your needs are met.

If you’d like to learn more, please don’t hesitate to contact us today.


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