Think of something you use at home that you never want to be without.

On a recent training course this question was posed and Paul volunteered that his family never run out of tea.

How do they ensure that that happens?

Paul explained that they keep a box of tea in the cupboard and a tea caddy on their counter. The caddy is regularly filled from the box.

As soon as the box is empty, it is left out and prompts the next person going to the shop to collect another box of tea. Simple? They are never without tea.

Or coffee, or sugar……….

Oh, by the way, Paul’s family have never heard of kanban..

As with many lean principles, they are derived from simple common sense.

A good kanban system ensures continuous supply of material.

The word ‘kanban’ means ‘signal’. A kanban signal is a trigger to replenish material.

The most common type of kanban is a 2-bin kanban. 2 bins are used for each item in a storage location. Each container is filled with a quantity to cover usage over a set period of time. One ‘bin’ must be emptied before using the second. The empty bin triggers a signal.

The signal can be the bin itself, a card, a fax etc and should follow a standard process.

Bin sizes are calculated using a combination of the usage, delivery/collection frequency, supply lead time and batch size.

The target in many lean companies is to minimise bin sizes by increasing collection/delivery frequency and reducing batch sizes.

Through the application of kanban, companies can expect to reduce inventories and eliminate downtime due to material shortages.


You may be interested in applying Kanban ideas in your business?


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