Creating Efficiency in the Workplace

Use visual cues to action.

© iStockphoto/tainted

Wouldn't it be great if whatever you needed was right there waiting for you?

No running around trying to find supplies at the last minute.

No missed deadlines because resources weren't lined up.

And no emotional energy wasted trying to figure out who used the last of the copy paper, and didn't order more.

You could go to extremes to avoid this problem. You could order enough copy paper to fill the whole storeroom, or have enough supplies inventory on hand to fulfill orders for the next six months. But this type of "over solution" is a poor use of financial resources and space.

What if there was a way to ensure you always had the necessary resources available when you needed them? The Japanese, pioneers in efficiency, developed the Kanban system to do just this.

Kanban in Practice

Kanban was developed as a means of fulfilling a just-in-time (JIT) inventory system. By implementing kanban, your materials and supplies arrive right when you need them. This decreases your storage and carrying costs.

Kanban is largely associated with manufacturing. A major concern in manufacturing is the need to have a ready supply of materials, without incurring unnecessary inventory holding costs. But it can also be applied in a nonmanufacturing environment, where the efficiency of your workflow depends on having resources available.

The term 'kanban' combines the Japanese words 'kan,' meaning 'visual' and 'ban,' meaning 'card' or 'board.' A kanban is a visual card or other cue that signals something is needed. It is a "pull" system, where supply is determined by the manufacturer or user.

Kanban Cards

One of the most common applications of kanban is...

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