Pull System – Kanban

Pulling tightrope

kanban-guideIn generations past most manufacturing facilities worked by having the production of things start in one area and be pushed through the line until it is completed.  While this was certainly an improvement over the times when an individual would have to make each item from start to finish, it has proven not to be the most efficient option.  Implementing a pull system like Kanban you can reduce waste in a variety of areas and increase the efficiency of virtually any type of production or manufacturing facility.

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What is Kanban

Kanban is a scheduling system which is used for lean and just in time production standards.  The idea is that rather than having each item pushed through the manufacturing process, they are pulled through based on the demand of each step.  In the case of the Kanban system there are a series of physical or virtual cards which come up when there is a need of additional supply for a specific item.   When that card is pulled up it will trigger the response of other groups to either supply or create more of that item so they can resupply it before it runs out.

This allows different parts of a facility to work more independently so they are not as likely to be waiting on other areas for parts or production.  It also helps to prevent wasted production because new items are only ordered or made as they are needed.  This eliminates the need to store huge numbers of specific parts which may or may not ever get used.  While the risk is there that a particular item won’t be available at the moment it is needed, this can be avoided with proper planning and information sharing throughout the facility.

Implementing a Pull System – Kanban

The most difficult part of the Kanban system is developing and implementing it properly.  There are standards which govern this type of thing, but since each facility is different it is impossible to know exactly what amounts of each item are needed at what points.  Fortunately, however, this information is fairly easy to gather up by monitoring or investigating the past performance of each area.  Once all the information is in place it is possible to switch from a push based system to the more efficient and profitable pull system of Kanban.

Most facilities will find that it is best to have one individual who is leading the Kanban program with the assistance of people throughout the facility.  This can help avoid any miscommunications and problems related to the changes.  In addition, many facilities will start the process using very liberal estimates of the amounts of each type of item. They can then scale it down as they get more accurate numbers from the different areas of the facility.

There are few things as important as efficiency when it comes to running any type of facility today.  Every wasted item or even wasted time is costing money and with the competitive environment it is hard to stay in business when your facility is not running at peak efficiency.  Implementing a Kanban system will help avoid these problems and give you the platform for continuous improvement.

Author: Antonio Ferraro

On behalf of Creative Safety Supply based in Portland, OR, I strive to provide helpful information to create safer and more efficient industrial work environments. My knowledge base focuses primarily on practices such as 5S, Six Sigma, Kaizen, and the Lean mindset. I believe in being proactive and that for positive change to happen, we must be willing to be transparent and actively seek out areas in need of improvement. An organized, safe, and well-planned work space leads to increased productivity, quality products and happier workplace. Connect with Antonio on Google+

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