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Getting Started With Kanban

Introducing Kanban Into Your Facility

Kanban is usually introduced gradually and typically may involve some trial and error.

1. The first step is to become familiar with Kanban and the options it offers. Some parts of Kanban may be suitable for your company, others may not.

This tutorial is just a brief overview of Kanban. Becoming familiar with Kanban will requiring in-depth reading, possibly attending a seminar or hiring a consultant.

2. Select the components of Kanban that will work in your facility. Not all parts of Kanban may be appropriate for the types of products you produce. Kanban may be appropriate for one product, and not for another. In some cases a simple manual Kanban will work well. In other cases computer automation of Kanbans may be the best option.

You will need to evaluate both your in-house production and your suppliers in order to determine which Kanban options will benefit your facility.

3. Plan your Kanban system. Kanban involves more than just manufacturing. Other functions such as purchasing, warehousing, shipping/receiving, quality control, transportation, accounts payable and engineering will be involved. Include all of those who will be effected in your Kanban planning and design process.

In planning, keep in kind that your object to to have what is needed (supplies, parts, manpower, information, energy, equipment, etc.), where it is needed when it is needed.

4. Set goals for Kanban. Based on your plan, set a schedule with measurable goals. What do you want Kanban to accomplish and when should that goal be reached? Determine what will be measured, and how it will be measured. Be sure to get baseline measurements of your current manufacturing system and inventory levels, before Kanban is implemented.

5. Begin implementation of Kanban. A common approach to implementing Kanban is to start with a generous number of Kanbans - containers, pallets, boxes, etc. Then systematically reduce the number of containers until the point at which the supply of materials is just in balance with the rate of use is reached. As containers are removed from the process, it will eventually reach the point at which production is delayed because the next container has not yet arrived. At this point add one container to the system to bring it back into balance.

In using this trial and error approach, be sure a safety stock is available so that production is not interrupted. You identify the point at which there is one too few containers as the point at which material from the safety stock is used.

This trial and error approach should be spread over a significant period of time to allow for normal fluctuations in production. In other words, don't remove a container every thirty minutes. Instead, remove a container once a day, or even once a week.

Container Identification

It is important that containers are clearly identified. Workers should be able to immediately identify the contents of a container just by looking at it. Color coding and labeling containers is an effective approach. For example, paint pallets or containers different colors so that each color is associated with one component or part. Use large labels, that are easy to read from a distance, making it easy for anyone to identify the contents of a pallet or container. In addition to color coding your containers, use the same color code for your labels. Label materials are available in a wide variety of colors, giving you flexibility in color coding Kanban containers.

5S, Lean and Labeling

Learn To Do Effective Lean Labeling
Apart from the obvious organizational benefits, labels are used as an effective tool for visual communication. In keeping with the philosophy of 5S, which aims to clean, organize, and streamline workplace spaces and processes, labels become an important tool.

Three Key Elements in Lean Labeling:

Label Shape: The location for each tool is indicated by a painted outline of the tool's shape. Label Color: Color coding aids organization by visually clarifying where things ought to go. In the picture to the left, this group of cleaning supplies is categorized according to use and identified with a bright orange color. Label Text (and images): The text and graphics used on a label communicate very specific information and eliminate confusion. Label text should be clear and concise. Look at the photo above. Each tool is identified using all three elements of lean labeling. The orange color indicates the type of supplies; the outlined shape of each makes their given storage locations easily known; the text on the label clearly identifies the name of each tool. Each of these labels was made using the DuraLabel printer and DuraLabel supplies, a handy thermal-transfer desktop printer that can easily and conveniently print labels and signs with your customized text and graphics. The tool outlines were made using DuraLabel vinyl tape, a method that is faster and cleaner than applying paint. Simply apply the self-adhesive DuraLabel vinyl tape to a flat surface where the tool will be stored. Hold the tool in place on top of the vinyl tape and use an Exacto knife to cut around its shape. Then peel away the unwanted portion of the tape. If the surface can be damaged after peeling off the vinyl tape, do not remove the paper backing. Lay out of the vinyl tape on a table using masking tape to hold the vinyl tape in place. After it has been traced and cut to the required shape, remove the backing and stick it in place. Becoming more efficient and productive is easy with the Duralabel PRO Printer. Durable, high-quality, OSHA safety signs, hazard warning labels, directional signs, identification signs and labels, and equipment maintenance and operating information can all be printed easily and conveniently. Each will help your facility achieve 5S visual communication and organization.