The Kanban method
Kanban is a production process control method based on the pull principle and is associated with lean management. The starting point of this method is the supermarket principle: after the consumer takes goods from a shelf, the gap is noticed and filled before the stock is zero.
The material flow in production is based on the actual consumption of materials at the point of provision and consumption. The Kanban system offers a high degree of adaptability in the event of short-term changes in demand, since the order for subsequent production is triggered promptly when a required preliminary product runs out. In this case, information is always forwarded in an up-to-date manner and thus adapted to the current demand situation of the downstream unit.
The kanban system is controlled by the last manufacturing stage of production. If the stock level of a certain article falls below a defined minimum value (reorder level), this is reported to the upstream production stage (also called source). The information is passed on via the kanban card, which contains all relevant information, e.g. article number, filling quantity, source or sink (downstream production stage). After receiving the kanban card, the source starts producing or providing the type and quantity of material specified on the card and stores it in kanban containers. As soon as the Kanban container is filled with the required quantity, it is transported with the Kanban card to the sink or to a fixed storage location. This creates a self-controlling control loop based on the pull principle.
Kanban requires a high level of discipline from employees and, if adhered to, can generate an increase in productivity. In addition to the reduction of inventory and the high material availability, lead times can be reduced, storage areas as well as control effort can be reduced and costs can be saved.