Chapter 5: Developing a Kanban Design

Chapter 5: Developing a Kanban Design


Many people think they only need to figure out the size of the kanban and they are ready to start up their kanban. Unfortunately, once they calculate the kanban size they are only partially ready. To successfully implement a kanban requires not only setting container quantities , but also the development of a design, deployment of the design, and training of the design. This chapter and the next two chapters will address these three topics. Thus our process flow expands, as shown in Figure 5-1, to include designing the kanban.

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Figure 5-1: The Next Step in the Implementation of Kanban Scheduling: the Kanban Design.

When we think of kanban design we should think about three things:

  1. Selecting the signaling mechanism for the kanban

  2. Developing the rules for operation of the kanban

  3. Creating the visual management plans for the kanban

These three items will ensure that you have a design that can be successfully implemented. Consider each activity as an integral step on the road to successful implementation.

Setting up the scheduling signal means to develop a signal that tells the production operators when to:

  • Produce parts

  • Change over

  • Stop production

This signal replaces the traditional production schedule. The signal can be cards, buggies, objects on a fixed board, etc. The only requirements for selecting a signal are that it must be unambiguous, readily understood , and maintainable .

The rules you develop for the kanban will drive its operation. They will be the guidance that allows the operators to control the production schedule. The rules should include directions on sequences, decision points, and anything else that will help production operators make the right decisions. Spell out who will perform what task, when to get help, who to go to for help, and what these "helpers" will do when contacted. The rules should use pictures and diagrams to facilitate understanding. Remember: if you want something to happen, then it better be in the rules.

Once you have developed a signal mechanism and the rules, you will need to determine how to communicate this information. The information should be communicated through your visual management plan. The visual management plans should include: putting up signs, marking or taping floors, posting the rules, posting job aids, etc. Your goal should be that anyone who walks into the production and material storage areas should immediately be able to determine the status of production, what needs to be produced next, and where to get parts. Additionally, your visual management plan should communicate all the other "everybody knows " stuff ” because everyone doesn't know.

Team Activity

Although you may have skated on involving the entire team in the previous steps, don't do it in the design phase. By creating a design as a team you will increase buy-in and are more likely to create a design that addresses all the issues.

The team will be able to identify the roadblocks to the success of the program. A successful design will answer the team's concerns and questions. When the design achieves this objective, then you're on your way to a successful kanban implementation.

Also, consider the kanban a work in progress. As you operate the kanban and gain more information, make changes that will:

  • Improve its operation

  • Integrate in new information

  • Correct the loopholes that prevent flow

Don't be afraid to change kanban quantities when the calculated amounts do not let the preferred production sequence occur as planned.