Kanban Cards – Six Essential Types

Improving Communication with Kanban Cards

If 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.

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