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Apr 28, 2010

How to Implement a Kanban in Lean Manufacturing

Lean manufacturing, well known among large corporations, in fact most companies all over the world have implemented some form of lean manufacturing. A big part of lean manufacturing is the Kaizen and Kanban methods. The Kanban means one thing that is visible, in Japanese and according to the best lean manufacturing system every product should be made as one until it reaches the customer but this is not very efficient in production methods. Still there are ways of implementing the system of "one" within the lean manufacturing system.

In a lean processes there are several teams formed for each department that involves the manufacturing of the part. These teams are formed to produce communication between the different departments. First you meet and get to know every person in your group and then you train those members in world class manufacturing and in other methods like Kanban and Kaizen. Kanban and Kaizen methods cannot be implemented without first implementing the basic system.

The process can be implemented into any department within a company, but first a complete analysis needs to be done to identify what areas need more efficiency including areas such as maintenance, sales, service, engineering production and even shipping. The key is to know the areas that need to be worked on and implement the plan, and this plan may be ever changing and ongoing.

A method within this system is the KanBan, which is Japanese, meaning something that is visible that helps in the transporting, moving or production of a product. This visible thing can be an electronic signal which signals the moving of a product from one station to another, a pallet on which product is put and then moved to another area, a bin with the same intentions, or anything similar.

The kanban method helps you manage inventory or processes; they allow you to know what is in stock and what has been shipped very easily, because each kanban has a certain number of products within. Even when you use an electronic signal you know how many of a product is shipping and how many are produced. As an example, lets assume the kanban is an electronic signal and you are producing refrigerators. If you implement a signal for 20 refrigerators going through the installation of thermal insulation, then you know that the next production area receives 20 refrigerators, etc.

As mentioned before the kanban method cannot be started and worked with efficiently until you really understand how it works. If you don't have the right organization and equipment the kanban system will not make much of a difference.

Lean manufacturing works as a whole, and certain methods like kanbans and kaizens work within the whole lean system. By the same token you cant have a lean system if you don't have kaizens or kanbans.