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Kanban  Techniques
Part 3 of 4

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Lean Manufacturing, Basics, Principles, Techniques

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The philosophy of Just-in-Time is the continuous elimination of waste, with waste defined as any activity that does not add value to the product


for the customer. The journey of continuous process improvement be­gins and progresses by learning how to economically produce smaller and smaller lot sizes. How do we do this?

The answer is, bit by bit. For example: if we have a process which requires a lot size of 200 and it is working well and it is economical, then try a lot size of 190. We will probably find that everything still works well and the process is still economical. So, what will it be like at 180, or 170, or 160? At some point, as we gradually reduce the lot size, we will expose a problem—something, some constraint, that will prevent us from making additional reductions.

Now we must find a way to solve the problem. The use of the seven basic total quality problem-solving tools will help us to determine the root cause of the problem and to implement a permanent solution.

     flowcharts  —Define the boundaries of the process clearly.

     checksheets—Detect patterns based on sample data.

     Pareto chart—Determine which problem to solve and in what order.

     cause/effect diagram—Identify possible causes of a problem.

     run/control charts—Display trends over time.

     histogram—Display distribution of data by category.

     scatter diagram—To determine if two variables are related.
When the problem is eliminated, the process will again be workingeconomically and we can continue to gradually reduce the lot sizes, exposing and eliminating subsequent problems. This will drive us to­wards being able to economically produce exactly what it is the cus­tomer wants and away from making everything in batches.


     Position, where practical, kanbans so that the supplier can see his material being pulled by the customer.

     It is usually better for the customer to pull than for the supplier to

     Locate kanbans so that it is easy for the customer to pull the oldest material first.

     Generally speaking, a "natural" kanban will be the best kanban—
tote pan, pallet, tray, supplier package, or container.

     Process kanbans on a first-come, first-served basis or according to a periodic schedule.

     Have only active material at the work stations. "Everything has a
place and is in its place" should become a natural way of life.


Two of the three key rules governing the use of kanban systems are

1.       Never produce, or move material, without an empty kanban.

2.       Never, ever pass on a known defect.

The first rule takes dead aim at the number one Just-in-Time evil: overproduction. The second rule leads directly into real total quality management of daily operations. In addition to the two rules shown above, kanban has a third rule:

3.   Eliminate a kanban from the system periodically.

The first rule forces the inventory down—but that is not its primary objective, which is to expose those constraints in the process that have forced the building of inventory in the first place. The third rule re­veals kanban's true role as the engine of continuous process improve­ment—similar to the role of material requirements planning as the en­gine of MRP II.


By following the 10 steps listed below, you can reasonably expect to
implement kanban replenishment in a small pilot area of your plant in 120 days and be able to see tangible, bottom-line results.

To Be Continued


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