Kanban Cards – Six Essential Types

Improving Communication with Kanban Cards

Kanban CardsIf you are looking to implement or improve your Kanban communication system, you will need to make sure you have all the right types of Kanban cards available. These cards are the main tool for this type of system, and actually give it the name. Kanban in Japanese means ‘instruction card’ or ‘visual card.’

These cards are typically (though not always) physical cards that are placed on or near a product, and travel through the system to provide information to people along the line. There are multiple different types of Kanban cards used in the program, which allow people to provide the information that is needed at any given point.

Learn How Kanban Systems are Used in a Lean Manufacturing Environment

The following are the six most common types of Kanban cards that you should have for your facility:

1. Withdrawal or Conveyance Kanban Cards

These cards are used to alert people when a part is finished with in one area. In many production lines parts need to be worked on in one area for some time, and then transferred to the next. This card will signal that parts are ready to be moved. When the next station in the process is finished with the products, they can send the withdrawal Kanban card to the previous area, signaling that they are ready for additional work.

2. Supplier Kanban Cards

This is something of a unique type of card as it goes outside of the normal production line. You can include your suppliers in the Kanban card system, so that you can send them a notification when you are ready for more of a particular part. While these cards can be physical, they are more often going to be digital or even represented by a phone call.

3. Emergency Kanban Cards

These cards are used when something is broken or has any type of defect. When a problem is discovered with one part or a series of parts, the emergency Kanban card will be sent to the previous station so they can be aware of the problem. These cards can notify them of what type of problem exists so that they can make sure the items they are working on doesn’t also have the same issues.

In some cases, these cards will also cause the previous work stations to stop working so that they don’t create a backup of work while the issues are being addressed.

4. Express Kanban Cards

The express card, as the name implies, says that there is a shortage in a particular part that is needed right away. This card is used to signal that the manufacturing may have to slow down or stop if the indicated parts are not supplied right away.

5. Production Kanban Cards

Kanban Card Rack
Kanban Card Rack
This type of Kanban card will typically have a list of all the parts that are required at a given time. A workstation may provide this card to an area in the facility to tell them what types of things they need to focus on in order to allow them to continue with production. These cards also signal the start of production for the facility.

6. Through Kanban Cards

This type of Kanban card is basically a combined withdrawal and production card. It is typically done between two different production points that work closely together, and can help to save time by avoiding having to send two cards back and forth whenever there is a status change.

Using Kanban Cards

Whether you have been using a Kanban system for years, or you are just starting to implement this methodology, it is important to make sure you are using the cards properly. Each of these types of Kanban cards has a specific use, and when handled properly they can help to improve the overall efficiency of the facility.

In the event that you run out of these cards at any point because they are lost or damaged, you can always print off custom labels from any industrial label printer to use until new physical cards arrive. 

Pull System – Kanban

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.

Check out Creative Safety Supply’s FREE Kanban Guide!

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.