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Kanban Helps Limit Downtime and Inventory Overflow

Kanban is one of several tools used by manufacturers to increase efficiency and limit downtime in a production process. Facilities use Kanban to make sure that production lines are supplied with the right materials at the right time. In Japanese, Kanban means visual card, and although at first it used physical cards, now Kanban is powered with technology. Visual cards are used to signal that processes are in need of materials or parts. The tool was originally invented in conjunction with “pull” systems of production that employ the “just-in-time” concept. Using the Kanban system, a manufacturer can reduce downtime through proper planning and execution.

“Kanban prevents inventory overflow and ensures precise delivery of quality materials to the line.”

Lean manufacturers use Kanban
In a just-in-time environment, processes are based on pull production expectations. Facilities only working on what is expected become leaner since they do not house excessive levels of raw or finished materials. Demand-pull allows companies to only produce what is needed, determined by time and quantity considerations. “Push” methods of production, on the other hand, are based on expected sales and manage inventory differently.

Process Excellence Network explained that Kanban prevents inventory overflow and ensures precise delivery of quality materials to the line. Smart manufacturers use sophisticated production scheduling software to plan production, order stock, and manage exchanges with suppliers and customers. Today, Kanban employs modern resources like e-mails, sensors, and electronic monitoring equipment.

Three main benefits of Kanban are:

  1. Visual control of production lines and assurance that only what is ordered is made.
  2. Products are free of defects and defective parts are found before they cause problems.
  3. Continuous improvement is achieved through the constant reduction of stock in production.

Kanban can help prevent inventory overflow

Kanban helps eliminate overproduction and waste
The Environmental Protection referred to Kanban as the “nervous system” of lean production and explained that Kanban is integral to just-in-time production because it is the channel through which ordering takes place. Specifically, Kanban is found in the form of a card, labeled container, computer order, or other tools that signal when more parts are needed for the next phase of production – thus eliminating overproduction.

Overproduction is a key form of manufacturing waste, noted the EPA. Kanban systems help eliminate overproduction and limit waste by reducing the number of products that must be scrapped or discarded. Kanban also reduces the amount of raw materials used in production and improves management of energy, emissions, and waste, resulting in more efficient production

Suggestions for an Effective Kanban System
Process Excellence Network advised that manufacturers set up Kanban properly in the workplace, for maximum benefit. Firstly, customers should only withdraw items in a downstream process, and suppliers should only produce items in an upstream process, in exact amounts as specified by the Kanban. Secondly, items should not be made or moved without a Kanban and a tag must be included with every item. Thirdly, defective parts and incorrect amounts should never be sent to the next process. Lastly, a facility should always work to reduce the number of Kanbans to lower inventories and identify potential problems with parts and materials.

Ultimately, Kanban is an effective method for reducing downtime because it ensures the correct supply of quality materials to the production line at all times. Sometimes, manufacturers who believe tribal knowledge can outperform lean methodologies, fail to raise efficiency because they do not properly implement Kanban, or implement it but do not enforce strict adherence. However, the most effective production facility knows that becoming lean means understanding that planning and execution go hand in hand.