When thinking of manufacturing, lean, agile and Kanban may be concepts that come to mind. Each of these has massively aided modern manufacturing, allowing manufacturing operations to hugely improve profitability, cut costs and reduce waste.
Although many manufacturers believe that these concepts are new and they are slowly beginning to implement them, they actually originated during the ‘40s when Toyota started implementing them in their car manufacturing process. When Toyota began to implement these concepts, they came up with four essential principles that were necessary in order to fully utilize the methodology. These are the four principles of Kanban within manufacturing.
It’s not surprising that the first principle of Kanban is about visualization, given the origin of the word. Unlike many other business process approaches, Kanban doesn’t proscribe workflows but rather requires that they are documented in a way that can be visualized easily. In order for Kanban improvement to begin, it’s necessary to visually map the process and look for any opportunities for improvement.
Limit Work in Progress:
The entire Kanban concept means moving every piece of work efficiently from the beginning to the end while attempting to cut costs and reduce waste throughout the process. This usually requires limiting the amount of working within the pipeline to what can be managed reasonably at a given time. For example, in the grocery store, inventory will only be pulled from the warehouse to the shelves when the customer demand makes room for it. To avoid bottlenecks, work shouldn’t be pushed forward.
Focus on Flow:
Focusing on the flow of production and the process is the third Kanban principle. And when the first two principles of Kanban are implemented, the work will begin to flow more freely, ultimately feeling easier. Attention here needs to be focused on any interruption in the flow, representing opportunities for further visualization and improvement of processes.
Constant, continuous improvement is Kanban’s overall goal. The amount of improvement that you are able to achieve within a production process should be unlimited unless you’re operating at maximum efficiency. If you’re utilizing the methodology correctly, you will understand that Kanban is never finished. You can do this throughout the process, or by utilizing Service Delivery Meetings (Retrospectives). To plan the work that they are going to execute next, Kanban teams use Kanban replenishment or Work Commitment meetings. Find out more at Kanbanize, a leading Kanban software provider.
Implementing Kanban Principles:
Kanban has proven to be an effective model for managing teams in many demanding industries, including manufacturing, construction, software development and more. Kanban is simple to understand and makes an impact quickly when it is implemented correctly.
Preparing Your Team:
Before you apply Kanban principles within your workplace, it’s important to prepare your team, department and any other departments who will be affected by the change.
Set clear goals:
Firstly, you need to be aware of what your end goal is, and make sure that it is communicated with everybody on your team. What is it that you are trying to achieve by implementing Kanban principles within your company? Whatever your goal is, it should be clearly defined in order to share a plan to reach it, motivate others to do it with you, and remove any obstacles that may appear on the way.
Establishing a mindset:
Once you have the desired outcome for the implementation of the process in mind, it’s important to establish the right mindset within your team. It can often be a challenge to deal with the human factor and get everybody on board, which is why you need to be able to clearly explain what the processes are and the benefits from both organizational and personal perspectives.
The whole process is about delivering superior customer experience and value by eliminating waste, while also cultivating a shared leadership environment where team members seek more responsibilities and continuous improvement. Colleagues who understand this are more likely to embrace the change.
Taking the First Steps:
Implementing Kanban and lean management requires a deep understanding of the theories behind it, beginning with the core principles. Because of this, it’s important to take your time to find the best way to ensure that it works well within your organization. Taking the first steps forward should include:
- Presenting the idea of Kanban and lean to your organization and ensuring that they understand the change that’s expected and how it’s going to benefit the entire company.
- Separate the wasteful from the valuable activities.
- Use a Kanban board to visualize the value stream that you deliver to customers.
- Alleviate or protect the bottlenecks throughout your process in order to achieve a smooth flow of value delivery to your customers.
- Only pull new work where there is a demand for it and spare capacity is available.
- Adopt the right culture to ensure that continuous improvement of your process is achieved.
Whatever industry your organization is in, implementing the core principles of Kanban can help your company achieve continuous improvement, eliminate waste, cut costs and provide value to your customers.