Kanban is a simple concept that can be very beneficial in process control. Kanban is a chart with columns representing the stages in a process and down each column in the chart the units sequenced through the process are moved from the first to last column. It is a visual display of movement through a process, also referred to as a Kanban Board or Kanban Chart (shown below).
Top 2 benefits of Kanban
- Kanban charts help us understand the current workflow from the beginning of the process through to the end.
- Kanban charts are used to support a Pull system where the downstream steps pull work from
upstream into the next available downstream step. For example, patients would be pulled from
the waiting line to registration and then pulled into the next available examination room and so
on throughout the entire system.
Understanding the benefits of Kanban
Consider the implications for a four-star restaurant where every dish is made to order. A customer places an order. This initiates a process where the order is them pulled through the system: from food preparation to dinner table. In this way supply and demand are balanced.
The concept of Kanban is quite versatile, and it can be used in almost any industry. Further it focuses on the entire value chain from raw materials to the shipment of the final product or in the service sector from requests for service to service delivery.
Since Kanban manages the flow through a process, it is obvious that the application of this concept Kanban requires constant monitoring. But the benefit of constant monitoring is that it can be used to avoid bottlenecks and delays. For example, when a task is halted during one of the process steps a tag or marker can be placed on that item thereby bringing attention to the fact that whatever is interfering with moving the item through to the next step in the process requires attention.
Where can Kanban be used?
There are countless applications. In staffing it can be used to maintain control of staff who are available, those who have been assigned to tasks, and those who have completed their assignments. In operations it can be used to maintain control over the progress of inputs through a process, in recruiting it can be used to monitor job applicants as they proceed through a multi-step interview process, and in procurement it can be used to monitor the status of orders.
Because it is simple and so visual, Kanban has become a very useful tool in the Lean Six Sigma Toolkit. To learn more about Kanban and Lean Six Sigma tools checkout Six Sigma Global Institute’s (SSGI) Green Belt Certification program.