Keys to Successful Implementation of Kanban

Keys to Successful Implementation of Kanban

Many organizations refuse /fail to implement kanbans due to their fears. They fear loss of control, they fear their employees lack ability, they fear running out of material, they fear....

The answer to these fears is to develop plans that resolve these fears. Your response to these fears should be to put plans in place to prevent them from becoming reality so that the organization can reap the benefits of kanban scheduling.

Because we want you to be successful in implementing kanbans, we have identified several factors that greatly add to the chances of success. These ideas will be further discussed in later chapters, and their impact on success will become clear. We believe the following items lead to successful implementation:

  • Size the kanban to current conditions

  • Adapt container size to allow flow

  • Make kanban signals visual

  • Develop rules that provide decision points plus checks and balances

  • Train the operators to run the kanban system

  • Set up audit plans to keep assumptions current and maintain system discipline

  • Develop a phased improvement plan to reduce the kanban quantities

Keep these ideas in mind as you read this book, and adopt these suggestions as you develop plans for addressing your process peculiarities .

Using the Workbook as a Guide

To assist in the implementation process, we have developed a CD-ROM Workbook (which is included with this book) that allows you and your team to progressively implement the steps. The workbook has forms that allow you to gather the information necessary to calculate quantities , design the kanban, develop an implementation plan, and develop a training plan.

Use the CD-ROM yourself or print out the forms for your team's use during the implementation team meetings.

What's in the Appendixes

To further increase your understanding of the kanban implementation process, we have included case studies and special topics in the Appendixes. The two case studies show implementation projects from different industries so that you can see the process in action. These case studies have been written as stand-alone works to allow use as a teaching aide and to fully illustrate the implementation process.

There are seven appendixes that deal with special topics, including:

  • Appendix A. MRP versus Kanban

  • Appendix B. Kanban Supermarkets

  • Appendix C. Two-bin Kanban Systems

  • Appendix D. Organizational Changes Required for Kanban

  • Appendix E. EOQ versus Kanban

  • Appendix F. Implementation in Large Plants

  • Appendix G. Intra-Cell Kanban

We broke these topics into separate appendixes because we felt that:

  • they required more detail than was appropriate for inclusion in the main body of the book

  • they would cause confusion if placed in the main body of the book


We define kanban scheduling as demand scheduling. Therefore, for a scheduling process to be considered a true kanban, the production process it controls must:

  • Only produce product to replace the product consumed by its customer(s)

  • Only produce product based on signals sent by its customer(s)

The kanban schedule replaces the traditional weekly or daily production schedule most of us have become familiar with in manufacturing operations. This schedule is replaced with visual signals and predetermined decision rules that allow the production operators to schedule the line.

To help in the implementation process we have proposed a seven-step process that will guide you through the implementation process. Keep these seven steps in mind as you progress through this book:

  1. Conduct data collection

  2. Calculate the kanban size

  3. Design the kanban

  4. Deploy the kanban

  5. Train everyone

  6. Audit and maintain the kanban

  7. Improve the kanban

However, while these process steps will guide you through the implementation, the implementation of kanban does not happen in a vacuum it requires a team approach.

The biggest obstacle to implementing kanban is you. The fear of losing control, running out of material, and the ability of the operators keep many companies from ever starting the journey. Don't become part of this group recognize your own fears and put action plans in place to prevent these fears from being realized. Or, if your fear can't be prevented, then have a standard operating procedure in place to deal with the problem when it occurs.

To further improve your potential for successful implementation the chapter identified seven common characteristics of successful kanbans. The remainder of the book will expand upon these items and how they impact success.

To further aid you in the implementation process, we have developed a CD-ROM workbook. We have also included a series of appendixes covering special topics and illustrative case studies. These items will help reinforce and clarify the concepts in the main body of the book so that you can successfully implement kanban scheduling