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5.18 - KanBan

Kanban (in Japanese - ticket or token) is shorthand to describe pull-type material control systems, (i.e. systems that pull materials through the manufacturing process in the order needed) just in time.

This is a typical Kanban card:-



Shaft - Part No:






It tells the operator:-

  • How many
  • The part description and number
  • Where they came from
  • Where they go next

The Kanban card is often fixed to a box that will carry the parts - so the box can be regard as a Kanban also.

a Kanban

kanban at machine

When the Kanban arrives empty at a machine it tells the operator to make the number on the Kanban and no more.

Many Kanbans at a machine

If 8 arrive, it tells the operator to make 400 and no more.

Usually the empty boxes are exchanged for full ones. The box is a re-circulating works order to eliminate paperwork.


Many Kanbans

Designing the Kanban in this way ensures that:-

  • The lead time is kept to a minimum
  • Only one journey is made to bring the empties and take the full containers.
  • To use simple robust Kanban we need to:-
  • Identify the regular runners and make special arrangements for repeaters and strangers.
  • Level the schedule to make daily and sell daily
  • Reduce the change over times on the machines
  • Carefully design the system - simulate it and document it
  • Train the people who will run it
  • Monitor and improve it. Regularly audit it against the manufacturing strategy.
Further Reading