Kanban in three easy steps

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Kanban steps I was leaving my local coffee shop when I overheard this exchange between customer and waitress. “Black coffee, please,” said the customer. “Do you want a doughnut with that?” asked the waitress. But before the customer could answer, she continued. “They’re free. We’ll have to throw them away otherwise,” she explained. I didn’t wait to hear the answer, but later I discovered that the half-term holiday, which meant many parents taking leave, had been responsible for the surfeit of doughnuts. But the trip to the local coffee shop got me thinking. What would have happened, for example, if the shop owner and his supplier had used Kanban? Using Kanban, which dictates what is produced, when it is produced and how much is produced, would have almost certainly have helped to eliminate waste. But exactly how should it be implemented?  

How Kanban works

Let’s imagine the following scenario. You own three large doughnut shops, and a factory that supplies your shops with doughnuts. In the last five years demand for doughnuts has spiked. At your flagship store, you stock 100 different varieties of doughnut. Your team of 20 work flat-out serving your customers 20,000 doughnuts each day. However, you face the constant problem of waste. You know your top selling doughnuts. But the Glazed, the Boston Cream Glazed, the Chocolate, the Raspberry-jelly filled and the strawberry doughnut sell out at different times and in different seasons. You’ve learned never to take anything for granted. Even your best selling doughnuts occasionally have a bad day. Last Tuesday for example, there were 509 unsold Boston Creams, and 195 strawberry doughnuts still on the shelves. While the business’s profit margins are increasing year-on-year, you realise that your company would benefit greatly from a employing a Lean manufacturing tool. You decide to opt for Kanban. Kanban is a Lean Manufacturing Tool for producing items in a highly efficient manner. It’s a scheduling system which tell you what to produce, when to produce it, and how much to produce. Kanban is also the Japanese word for sign, and Kanbans are signs used to schedule and track production from inventory, to manufacturing and delivery.  

Three stages of Kanban

The simplest Kanban systems employ three stages, which are as follows: - To do - Doing - Done  

Kanbans explained

So in this case: - Your TO DO Kanbans are inventory supply. - Your DOING Kanbans are making the ten different types of doughnuts, listed below.

- Boston Cream Glazed doughnut

- Chocolate Glazed doughnut

- Raspberry jelly filled doughnut

- Strawberry doughnut

- Jam doughnut

- Sour Cream Glazed doughnut

- Cinnamon doughnut

- Maple Glazed doughnut

- Custard filled doughnut

- Apple Brown Sugar doughnut

- Your DONE Kanbans are packaging and transporting the doughnuts to market.  

Kanbans in action

It quickly becomes evident that demand for your best-selling doughnut, the Boston Cream, continues to decrease, but curiously demand for the jam-doughnut has soared. Therefore, as your couriers deliver more cases of jam doughnuts to your three stores, you pull DOING Kanbans to the right because the factory needs to make more of them. However, as you are preparing more jam doughnuts, you need more jam, so you pull a TO DO Kanban to the right. Now it’s time to order more supplies. Come the end of the day, you decide to review your inventory by visiting your three stores. You’re pleasantly surprised to learn that the Kanban system you have employed, has helped reduce waste by 90 per cent. Thanks to Kanban, you only bought and baked what you needed to fulfil orders. There is no excess inventory and a lot fewer doughnuts are consigned to the bin.   Read more: How Kanban systems are used in different industries   New Call-to-action
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