It Takes a Team to Be Successful

It Takes a Team to Be Successful

Before we rush off to implement kanban, we need to address who does the implementation. The implementation of kanban will only work when you have the buy-in of the process stakeholders. Therefore, you need a cross-functional team to implement kanbans. This team, which needs to include operators, material handlers, supervisors, managers, and scheduler/material planners, will help you create kanbans that address operating conditions and logistics. They will also help create the buy-in needed to implement and operate the kanban since they become the voice of the stakeholders.

Although you may be able to design and set up the kanban without the help of the team, you cannot create the necessary buy-in by yourself. Additionally, each team member's input only improves the kanban design by ensuring that logistics items and team member concerns don't get overlooked.

Do You Need a Consultant?

Many people who are not familiar with kanban ask whether you need a consultant. The answer to this question is: it depends. To answer this question, complete this book and consider the following items when making this decision:

  • Are the planned kanbans simple or complex?

  • Do you have sufficient resources to manage the program?

  • Do you have the necessary in-house expertise to lead a team in designing and implementing the initial kanbans?

  • Are you implementing kanbans in one plant or multiple plants?

  • Do you want to develop a cadre of implementers?

The answers to these questions will determine whether you need outside consultants . The only definite recommendation we have is that if you are planning to implement kanban in a large corporation with numerous sites, then use this book as a resource for your in-house teams, but hire a consultant initially to train the teams. However, as the in-house teams gain implementation experience you will have no need for outside support.

Choosing the Target Process or Department

In choosing a target process or department, follow these suggestions:

  • Initially, start simple. Select a pilot area that will undergo full implementation. Complete all the phases and let your organization see the benefits before starting a second round of kanbans.

  • Look across your organization and select a process that has a clear delineation between itself and the process it supplies .

  • Because the kanban essentially replaces the traditional forecasted schedule, select a target area where a "customer-supplier" relationship is easy to identify and understand. The basic use of the kanban will be to meet the needs of the "customer."

  • Consider a process with fairly steady demand. The steady demand makes the calculation process simpler and the kanban runs smoother.

  • Consider the readiness of the process operators to accept change and, more importantly, to participate in making kanban a success. Do not underestimate the power of resistance to change.

  • Finally, go for a base hit or a double, not a homerun, when selecting the pilot site. The key in the pilot implementation is to make it successful and to create a learning experience for the organization. A successful implementation also gives the rest of the organization the confidence to overcome their fears of implementing kanban.

If your organization has conducted value stream mapping, then use the future state map to select the target site. The value stream maps (made famous by James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones in their book Lean Thinking [8] ) should ideally provide multiple targets to choose from if your plant is typical of most plants that start the process of lean manufacturing. Additionally, the value stream mapping process should help you with data collection.

We recommend against selecting a finished goods kanban as your first kanban project. Dealing with the external variables of the customer-supplier relationship can be tricky, so get some experience before implementing. Instead, select an internal process to learn the ropes . You should get good at kanban before you bring your external customer into the picture. (Remember that lean manufacturing is about serving the customer, so you don't want to endanger the paying ones!)

[8] James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones, Lean Thinking (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996).