Kanban Methodology Today
9 minutes, 34 seconds read
The Kanban methodology is renowned in business circles for its impressive results. It’s a system that aligns product manufacturing with customer demand to achieve a seamless end-to-end flow. This reduces costs, accelerates production rates, and improves quality too. The Kanban method can help organizations to become more agile, adapt to changing market requirements faster, and reduce waste too. In this article, we explore what the Kanban methodology is, how it can benefit businesses, and practical steps to implementing it.
What is Kanban?
The Kanban methodology is an approach to production that balances manufacturing with demand. It prioritizes continual delivery while being careful not to burden product development teams too much. The methodology enables companies to streamline processes so that they are aligned with the needs of customers.
Like many continuous improvement methodologies, Kanban has its roots in Japan. The concept was pioneered by Toyota who implemented a ‘just in time’ approach to manufacturing back in the 1940s. The process involved developing a visual method (known as Kanban boards) for monitoring how parts flowed through their system, from the supplier all the way through to the production line. They called it ‘Kanban’ which means ‘visual sign’ in Japanese.
As a result of their innovative approach, Toyota improved product quality, increased production speed, and decreased costs. Their teams worked together in a more effective manner because they had better visibility over the entire process (instead of just their own section). The Kanban methodology was then implemented by other manufacturing companies around the world and Toyota Production System practices have spread into other sectors too.
Benefits of Kanban
The Kanban methodology can be a powerful step in creating a continuous improvement culture. The visual nature of the approach makes it easy to identify interruptions in the flow of materials and glitches in the production process. Issues that may lead to backlogs or delays can be found quickly before they become a bigger problem. This helps organizations to avoid capital being tied up in unnecessary stock, parts, or materials. It means that anything that negatively affects the creation of customer value is highlighted and addressed promptly.
The benefits of Kanban include:
- Decreased cycle times so that products are manufactured more quickly
- Increased agility and adaptability towards change
- Improved responsiveness to shifting priorities
- Throughput always aligned with the demand to ensure focus on customer requirements
- Minimal set-up requirements or changes needed to get started
- Waste reduced through decreased movement, storage, and waiting
- Creation of feedback loops that enable team members to make improvements, leading to increased empowerment and motivation
Implementing the Kanban methodology also makes it easy to measure the effectiveness of different processes and teams. It provides hard data that helps managers to quantify what’s working well and areas for improvement. For organizations that want to offer customers the best possible service, Kanban provides the support structures required.
How Does It Work?
The methodology revolves around a number of key Kanban principles or ‘core practices’. These are visualizing the workflow, limiting the work in progress, and optimizing the flow. The combination of these elements is what produces the impressive streamlining results and creates a greater alliance between teams. Let’s take a closer look at each one in turn.
Visualize the Workflow
Visualization is at the heart of the Kanban methodology. Whether being used in manufacturing, software development, or procurement, it’s vital to have a clear outline of the tasks that need to be performed. Understanding everything that’s still to be done and how these items relate to each other can be incredibly informative.
You can approach this in a similar fashion to value stream mapping by recording every step on a post-it note, long roll of paper, or using digital tools. Collating everything into one place enables you to identify bottlenecks, areas of stress, and sources of potential problems. This record is invaluable in both the short and long-term since it can be used as a reference or benchmark for future projects.
Limit Work in Progress
Limiting the work in progress (sometimes referred to as WIP) is about managing the volume of tasks coming through the doors. It aids in balancing the flow throughout a process and ensures that teams are working on the right things at the appropriate times. Defining a WIP limit maximizes efficiency by removing time lags or similar forms of waiting waste from the system. The agile method helps items such as products or supplies to be moved along the line at the right pace. This means when it’s required by a customer or the next stage in the process. In order for transitions to take place smoothly, the amount of work in process needs to be limited. This makes it easier to create a pull process where items flow based on demand (as opposed to being pushed through). It’s a vital step in achieving lean portfolio management and evolutionary change in an organization.
Once the first two elements are in place, an organization will experience a much smoother flow of production processes. With careful testing and analysis, it’s possible to enhance the flow even further and maximize its beneficial impact. Identify areas for development and the root causes of potential problems. Implement policies to ensure that any events or issues that disrupt the flow are dealt with promptly. This will ensure that the flow you’ve created will continue to grow and develop. By adopting a continuous improvement approach to production, you’ll consistently increase productivity and reduce waste.
Leveraging Software to Aid Kanban Efforts
Implementing a Kanban project that introduces this methodology into your organization doesn’t have to be difficult. Modern, digital solutions can make everything significantly easier. It will streamline communication between teams and make production alignment a breeze. Instead of working as individual islands in the organizational sea, departments will be united in their efforts. Responsibilities for tasks will be clearly demarcated and upcoming actions can be flagged so people can plan ahead. Information gaps will be reduced since everything is stored in a central area, accessible via mobile app, tablet, or desktop computer. It will eliminate many of the silo headaches that large enterprises typically encounter.
Digital solutions enable you to track progress in real-time and gain immediate feedback. It’s easy to see what’s moving the needle and which activities aren’t having the impact you’d hoped for. If there’s an interruption in the flow, it might not be noticed immediately through manual tracking. But digital platforms can alert departments the second something goes awry, allowing team members to resolve it more quickly and return to the flow state sooner (before lead time is affected).
Repository for Ideas
Kanban software can act as a repository for ideas so that nothing is ever lost. The process often sparks creative thinking and new ways of doing things, but not all of them will be implemented straight away. Digital platforms enable you to capture these ideas and store them for future improvement projects. This allows you to implement them at the most appropriate time for your business, whether that’s now or sometime down the line.
Digital platforms make it easy to track the return on investment (ROI) on your efforts and budgets. Managers can quickly see the status of projects, along with the impact they have had. Its visual nature makes analysis and interpretation of data a breeze so that strategic decisions can be taken quickly. If you’re unsure whether your continuous improvement efforts are making a real difference, the software will give you a categoric answer.
Digital solutions can also boost employee engagement by empowering them to take ownership. As a tool for submitting ideas, managing projects, and tracking their progress, it can have a significantly beneficial effect on morale. When staff sees that their feedback is valued and followed up on, they feel more valued in the workplace. Some platforms also support employees in taking the lead in implementing a project, which can lead to a greater sense of purpose and autonomy.
The data and insights provided by lean software can also aid accountability. It can show which teams are engaging with a project or which sections of a production line are causing hold-ups. It can highlight where more help or support is needed. This makes it easier to identify opportunities for coaching and improvement. When staff knows that they will be held accountable, they often put in more effort without being asked. This can lead to immediate uplifts in productivity, quality, and efficiency.
Platforms like Rever make it quick and easy to implement the Kanban methodology. Its visual nature allows you to create digital ‘signboards’ and helps information to flow between manufacturing teams. Modern technology also enables you to capture ideas for transformational projects, filter out the best ones, communicate how to implement them, and measure their results. They provide a repository for project information, aid management, and streamline cross-functional activity. Using software also allows companies to capture, record, and share best practices throughout the organization, leading to widespread change. These types of tools support on-going learning and improvement that are at the core of creativity and innovation. Because of their comprehensive set of features and ease of use, they soon become the preferred quality management method for users. By spurring innovative ideas, building trust, and improving communication, Rever and the Kanban methodology make it easy to develop a system for lean manufacturing in your organization.
Your Digital Continuous Improvement Tool
Rever is all about sharing and reusing, doing and tracking. Continuous process improvements become a hundred times easier with our innovative digital platform. Using Rever’s dashboard, you can monitor the performance of your teams, the summary of their impact, and easily identify the people making the biggest difference at your company.
Rever Cycle is our version of the PDCA methodology and guides your teams on the exact steps to follow to execute their own ideas. It allows them to capture the entire process, from identifying a problem to experimenting and implementing a solution. They can use it to capture the before and after with pictures, notes and drawings, making their ideas a reality in no time. The time of your team is too valuable to be wasted in handmade drawings and complex explanations.
At Rever, we believe that anybody can be a knowledge worker and thrive. What makes us human is the capacity to grow our intellect and will, and to use them for good. We observe, especially at work, that most people are asked to stop thinking and do as they are told. We want to change that. We enable people to achieve their full creative potential.
Are you interested in learning more about the Kanban methodology or discussing other continuous improvement methods? Then get a demo today with one of our friendly experts.
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