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Lean Tools

What is Kanban?


Kanban scheduling systems operate like supermarkets. A small stock of every item sits in a dedicated location with a fixed space allocation. Customers come to the store and visually select items. An electronic signal goes to the supermarket's regional warehouse detailing which items have sold. The warehouse prepares a (usually) daily replenishment of the exact items sold.

In modern supermarkets Kanban signals come from checkout scanners. They travel electronically (usually once a day) to the warehouse. Smaller stores still use visual systems. Here, a clerk walks the aisles daily. From empty spaces he deduces what sold and orders replacements.

In a manufacturing Kanban system, a machine shop supplies components to final assembly. Assembly is a manual operation with little setup and produces in lot sizes of one, to customer requirements.

Machining is more automated and has significant setup costs. Machining produces in batches to amortize the setup and sequence parts to minimize tool changes. 

A small quantity of each part is maintained at machining. By observing the quantities, the machinists know what products need to be made.

Another variation is the bread truck. Here drivers follow a fixed route from store to store. They have a supply of bakery items in their truck. At each stop, they examine the stock and replenish what has been sold.

Kanban scheduling in manufacturing works in the same way. The essential elements of a system are:

  • Stockpoint(s)

  • A Withdrawal Signal

  • Immediate Feedback

  • Frequent Replenishment









G.R. Technologies 
75 Allingham Gdns 
North York, Ontario
M3H 1X9

Tel: (905) 597-9277
Fax: (416) 638-4866


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