Kanban Made Simple: Demystifying and Applying Toyotas Legendary Manufacturing Process - page 18


1. Toyota Motor Corporation, The Toyota Production SystemLeaner Manufacturing for a Greener Planet, p. 19.

2. Taiichi Onho, Toyota Production SystemBeyond Large-Scale Production (Portland: Productivity Press, 1988), Chapter 1.

3. Onho, Toyota Production System, p. 123.

4. Onho, Toyota Production System, p. 89.

5. Michael L. George, Lean Six Sigma: Combining Six Sigma with Lean Speed (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2002), p. 38.

6. "Chasing the Make-To-Order Dream." White paper presented at the Logistics and e-Supply Chain Forum, 2001.

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

Chapter 2: Forming Your Kanban Team


A successful kanban will not happen without team implementation. Therefore, before you begin the process of developing and deploying kanban scheduling, get rid of any Lone Ranger ideas:

  • Yes, you can calculate the size of the kanban by yourself.

  • Yes, you can design a scheduling signal by yourself.

  • Yes, you can design awesome visual management aids by yourself.

  • No, you cannot make the implementation a success by yourself.

Success will require the use of a team to develop buy-in and to ensure all unique aspects of the operation get tied into the kanban design. To ensure this happens, bring the team together at the planning stage to participate in all the steps of the deployment process. Do not expect to have the support and cooperation of the stakeholders, if you just tell them what they are going to do and how the kanban will work.

Additionally, as anyone with experience in working with cross-functional teams knows , the probability of developing a superior product goes up dramatically by seeking and using everyone's expertise. The team will identify the issues they currently face ”some you know about and some you never dreamed of. They will also probably have a suggestion or a "why can't we" idea that will nullify these issues.

Finally, members of the team can help in explaining the design to their coworkers later in the deployment process. They will help the communication process and can reduce "flavor of the month" fears. The team members can also smooth over any start-up glitches by helping their coworkers deal with them as they occur.

This buy-in, however, does not come without a price. Gaining team participation and buy-in will require you (or the teamleader) to seek the team's opinion and to respect their ideas. The team will not provide their input freely or help sell a plan that they do not support. At best, if they feel railroaded, you may expect passive support or outright resistance.

How Should I Select the Team?

The team should be composed of all the stakeholders in the process. Set up the proverbial cross-functional team that includes all the disciplines that will operate , monitor, or support the kanban. Also include those people who have special data or just plain special interest.

Don't be afraid to include individuals not directly related to the operation. Remember that people who are not "close" to the daily operation sometimes propose unique out-of-the-box solutions because they do not possess the paradigms of the day-to-day operators and managers.

At a minimum, the team should include the following representatives:

  • Production management/supervision

  • Materials management

  • Material handlers/warehouse associates

  • Production operators

Try to keep the size of the team to between five and eight members. The team members must also have the authority to commit for their groups. If the team members are to coordinate the plan with their groups, then have their managers develop a coordination plan. Figure 2-1 pictorially shows the core members of the kanban team.

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Figure 2-1: Core Team Members.

Other potential members to the team might include:

  • Human relations

  • Engineering and maintenance (if fixtures, signs, etc., are required)

  • Sales and customer service

  • Downstream customer(s)

  • Trainees for future kanban projects

Make the selection of additional participants (or rather those people outside the traditional stakeholder groups) based on their ability to participate and bring information to the team.

One group that is sometimes left out is the customer. The customer can be a downstream process, a sister plant, or an external customer. Their presence can ensure that the design meets their needs. They can also tell you their requirements. This invitation can be a terrific opportunity to improve supply-chain management activities and possibly to move toward strategic alliances.

When inviting external customers, consider the invitation carefully in terms of the current relationship and how much they can contribute to the team. If the team decides to include the customers, make sure that the purchasing and customer service people are involved to make sure your company puts its best foot forward.

Also, consider future kanban plans and how this kanban system will parallel those plans. Assess the potential to get a leg up on training and the development of bench strength by developing future kanban team members. Figure 2-2 pictorially shows the potential additional members.

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Figure 2-2: Other Potential Team Members?