How many times have you run out of something you need? If you’re like me, it does happen from
time to time and usually when it’s horrifically difficult to get more -- Murphy’s law in action.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a simple
system that ensured our organizations
never run out of any supplies at an
inconvenient time? Whether we are
talking about paint, sheet goods or
bathroom tissue, running out could be
a very expensive proposition when you
have to start expediting. Consider the
soft cost of having people shift gears
to another project, or stop all together,
and it’s no wonder software companies
make a bundle with inventory management solutions.
One of the most powerful lean
philosophies is to always try to simplify. When it comes to managing your
inventory, smart people can’t believe
it’s this simple.
I would like to introduce you to the
concept of “Kanban.” Kanban is a
Japanese word for “sign” or “signal.” It
was in the late 1940s when the Japanese
were studying manufacturing concepts
from Henry Ford that they discovered
something in a most unusual place. It
was a North American supermarket.
They noticed that the staff only replenished the items on the shelf as they were
being purchased, and this was in no
way linked to the vendor’s supply. It was
what they needed, when they needed it,
in the quantity that was needed. This
was the birthplace of “just in time,”
commonly referred to as J.I. T.
How did the Japanese overcome the
challenge of communicating to suppliers, whether it be internal or external,
what was needed when, where it’s
needed and in what quantity? Here is
where our human brains start thinking
about computer-aided technology, the
Toyota experts being well versed in sim-plification, created a simple card that
accomplished this task.
The importance of kanban really hit
by Brad Cairns
firstname.lastname@example.org LEAN JOURNEYS
Simple secret to inventory control
No fancy computer program is necessary; anyone can do it with a kanban.
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Brad Cairns is the senior principal at Quantum Lean/The
Center for Lean Learning as well as running a woodworking
business called Best Damn Doors in St. Thomas, Ontario,
Canada, where he puts lean thinking into action every
day. You can reach Brad at 519-494-2883 or brad@
The kanban board shows everyone
at a glance what items are on order.
When the item comes in, the Kanban
card is returned to its place as a
reorder reminder with the inventory.