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What Is Kanban Scheduling?

Kanban scheduling is a visual workflow management system created to optimize production and inventory. Designed by an industrial engineer at Toyota Automotive, Kanban helped the company accurately determine the right quantity, time, and how to produce.

What are the benefits of Kanban scheduling?

Kanban’s core philosophy focuses on establishing a stable production flow that is based on customer demand. 

Therefore, production work takes place only when a customer demand request comes in. Such a production scheduling system has many benefits including:

  • Significant reduction in inventory with just-in-time production improving cash flow
  • Limits the work-in-progress and helps save on raw material and production costs
  • Reduces unnecessary product wastage and saves production costs
  • Increases team productivity and allows companies to scale efficiently

What are the different kinds of Kanban scheduling systems?

Here are the most widely used Kanban systems:

  1. Production Kanban - In this Kanban system, any sold or consumed items are replaced with new ones.
  2. Withdrawal Kanban - Items are moved or relocated from one work process or place to another in a withdrawal Kanban. 
  3. Signal Kanban - Signal Kanban is a system that triggers replenishment or production of a specific product with a pre-defined batch size.

How does Kanban scheduling work?

Kanban scheduling has a systematic approach to work that can be better understood with a simple example. Here’s a sample Kanban scheduling system that a supermarket may have.

  • Supermarket stores hundreds of defined inventory items in different locations
  • A customer selects specific items and goes to the checkout counter to purchase them
  • The cashier scans the items and emits signals or ‘Kanban’ to the inventory database that the chosen items have been consumed and are no longer in stock
  • Now supermarket employees can refill the stock after specified quantities of supplies are depleted
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When is Kanban scheduling useful?

Though Kanban methodology is a holistic concept that can be applied across disciplines, it is beneficial for certain situations:

  • When consumption demand is relatively stable or predictable
  • Time to replenish stocks is clear and can be predicted
  • Custom production is required where lot sizes can be different across orders