Kanban is a method for managing inventories and production. It is based on the pull principle and forms a closed-loop system. The pull principle essentially means that the consumer takes the materials required for production from the supplier. Once the consumer has used up a predetermined Kanban quantity, they signal this to the supplier in the form of a Kanban card (Kanban is Japanese for card), which tells the supplier to produce the indicated quantity again.
The Kanban board
Prefabrication in a lean factory depends on setup times, and is controlled via a traffic light system known as a Kanban board. Kanban cards from empty containers are inserted into the Kanban board according to sort and part number. Production begins once the yellow stage is reached. If the red stage is reached, it means that retooling and production is required immediately.
The supplier Kanban board
The supplier Kanban board is a visual aid that helps monitor and control deliveries from suppliers, known as Kanban call-offs, in a self-regulating control loop. Once a container unit is used up, the Kanban information is conveyed to the external supplier.
The delivery is then monitored using the Kanban cards. This helps immediately detect outstanding deliveries and backlogs.
The Heijunka board
Fluctuations in demand can lead to growing order peaks in upstream work processes. The Heijunka board ensures that customer or internal production orders are processed in a set sequence. This optimised sequence helps smooth out fluctuations.