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Kanban  Techniques
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Lean Manufacturing, Basics, Principles, Techniques

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TWO KANBAN TECHNIQUES

Many people believe that kanbans work well in an environment where there are high product volumes and low product variety—and they do. Unfortu­nately there are a lot of people who mistakenly believe that kanbans are not practical in an environment in which there is a high product variety with small volumes of each item. Kanbans do work equally well in both low-mix/ high-volume and in high-mix/low-volume environments. It is critical, how­ever, that the correct kanban technique be used for a given environment.

 

The product-dependent kanban is the technique of choice for a high-volume/low-mix environment. Product-dependent kanbans provide a visible signal of what to do and when to do it. When a kanban becomes empty, you simply replace what was there with another just like it. The advantage of this technique is that it is easy to explain and to understand. The disadvantage of this technique is that it requires some of every item at each work station—more inventory and more floor space required.

 

The product-independent kanban is the technique of choice for low-volume/high-mix environments. Product-independent kanbans provide a visible signal of when it is time to do something but do not commu­nicate what to do. The "what to do" must be communicated indepen­dently of the kanban signal by an external method, for example, an MRP II dispatch list, a final assembly schedule, or a customer order. The technique works like this: whenever a customer pulls material from your kanban, you, in turn, pull material into your work station. The process continues (each customer pulling from his supplier) until the kanban at the starting work station is pulled. The empty kanban there at the starting work station will be the signal to begin production of the next item on the MRP II dispatch list, or on the final assembly sched­ule, or of the next customer order.

The advantage of this technique is that it does not require some of each item at each work station. The disadvantage of this technique is that it is more difficult to explain and to understand than the product-depen­dent kanban.

It has been my experience that most companies start off using prod­uct-dependent kanbans because they are easy to explain and understand. Then, as the Just-in-Time initiative is expanded to include more and more areas of the company, there is a shift into a hybrid approach, prod­uct-dependent plus product-independent kanbans, as there is not adequate floor space for some of every item at every work station. Finally, when the company converts all their operations to Just-in-Time, the approach changes again, this time to all product-independent kanbans.

REPLENISHMENT TECHNIQUES FOR PURCHASED ITEMS

It is important to understand that the kanban is not a substitute for planning. Prior to attempting the implementation of kanban replenish­ment for purchased items, a way must be developed to communicate projected requirements for those items out beyond the suppliers cumu­lative lead time. Only then should one, or more, of the following re­plenishment techniques be selected.

      kanban cards—A card signifying a specific requirement is sent from the using location back to the supplier to signal a need for replenishment. The card is then returned, along with the material, from the supplier to the using location for subsequent reuse.

      containers—An empty container will authorize the production or
shipment of enough material to refill it.

      marked spaces—Designed to hold a limited number of units. A vacant space (on the shop floor, in the warehouse, in a cabinet, or on a shelf) is the signal that replenishment is authorized. The fact that the space is vacant may becommunicated to the supplier by either a company employee or by a representative of the supplier.

      EBON—An electronic signal is sent to the supplier by the using location to authorize production or shipment of the quantity specified.

      FAXBON—A telefax is sent to the supplier by the usinglocation
to authorize production or shipment of the quantity specified.

      TELBON—A telephone call is made from the using location to the supplier by either a company employee or by a representative of the supplier to authorize production or shipment of the quantity specified. Regardless of the replenishment technique selected, it is critical that a visual display, at the using location, is maintained to show that the supplier has been notified of the replenishment need.

REPLENISHMENT TECHNIQUES FOR MANUFACTURED ITEMS

It is important to understand that the kanban is not a substitute for planning. The kanban is a way to execute the plan. Prior to attempting the implementation of kanban replenishment for a manufactured item, a way must be developed to plan how much material is needed, when it is needed, and to assure that both the capacity and the component ma­terials will be available when required. Only then should one, or more, of the following replenishment techniques be selected.

      kanban cards—A card signifying a specific requirement is passed from the using location back to the producing location to signal a need for replenishment. The card is then returned, along with the material, to the using location by the producing location for subsequent reuse.

      containers—The empty container will authorizes the production or movement of enough material to refill it.

      lights—An electric light signal, controlled by the using location,
will flash up an instantly visible need for replenishment to the pro­
ducing location.

      marked spaces—Designed to hold a limited number of units. A vacant space (on the shop floor, in the warehouse, in a cabinet, or on a shelf) is the signal that replenishment is authorized.

      marked spaces—Designed to hold a limited number of units. A vacant space (on the shop floor, in the warehouse, in a cabinet, or on a shelf) is the signal that replenishment is authorized.

Regardless of the replenishment technique selected, it is critical that a visual display is maintained at the producing location, to show that the replenishment need has been received from the using location.

To Be Continued


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