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Machine Shop Best Practices: How to Implement Effective KanBan Boards for Production Support

Machine Shop Best Practices: How to Implement Effective KanBan Boards for Production Support

What is a KanBan Board? The term KanBan was introduced by Taiichi Ohno, the father of the Toyota Production Systems (TPS), in Japan as a lean manufacturing tool. In Japanese kanban literally translates to ‘signboard,’ used as a final call for orders from shopkeepers for orders in villages. Originally created as a simple way to control and manage workflow and inventory at any stage of production, KanBan uses cards or flags to signal when it is time to manufacture the next part, according to customer demand. The process helps to minimize waste, limit work-in-progress and reduce the amount of capital tied up in inventory.

Looking to speed up production and cut down on wasted time in your shop?

A KanBan board may be the solution you’ve been looking for. Kanban boards are agile tools used to help your workforce or organization visualize the flow of production, limit work-in-progress (WIP) and maximize efficiency. It can be one of the simplest and most effective ways to ensure your facility manufactures only what is needed for customer orders, rather than wasting time and supplies creating unnecessary goods. Create the right product at the right time at the right cost. When done right, a KanBan board can save you time and money. When done wrong, Kanban boards can add confusion and inefficiency to your operations.

Related: KanBan in Manufacturing Can Eliminate Bottlenecks and Maximize Capacity

To help understand the simplicity of an effective KanBan board for lean manufacturing, we thought we’d share a few tips on how to plan and implement your board.

5 Steps to Create and Set Up an Effective KanBan Board in Your Facility

  1. Decide What Kind of KanBan Board Your Facility Needs
    While it can be exciting to brainstorm ideas on how to best create your board, remember to keep it simple. Think about the type of KanBan you may want to use in your facility and how complex it really needs to be. Take a look at your existing workflow, speak to those working the front lines and discuss how to best focus resources to deliver the best impact.

    Your KanBan production board should, at a minimum, include horizontal columns for:

    a) To Do
    b) Doing
    c) Done

    More complex boards can utilize headings like these:

    a)Available Backlog
    b) Top 3 Priorities
    c) In Progress
    d) Require Validation
    e) Doing Validation
    f) Complete

  2. Make Small Incremental Changes Over Time
    It can be tempting to want to overhaul your entire production process overnight, but the best way to fine tune your processes is with small incremental changes. Start with what you know and monitor for results. Make one small change in the process and watch to see how it impacts production for worse or for better. Record that data and use metrics to determine any future adjustments. Your KanBan should remain flexible and allow you to gauge current processes, highlight inefficiencies and make changes to improve production flow and decrease waste.

  3. Encourage Company Wide Involvement
    Implementing anything new can have its challenges and, often times, can lead to rebellion or refusal to comply. Be clear about the initiative from day one and explain how KanBan can improve productivity, while decreasing individual stress. Make all policies involving KanBan explicit. Take the time to increase your team’s understanding of how and why KanBan is instrumental to the company’s success as well as their own. And, be sure to listen to the concerns raised by key team members, after all, they are your eyes and ears on the plant or machine shop floor.

  4. Limit Work-in-Progress
    Work-in-progress (WIP) are tasks or parts of a production process that a team is currently working on, but have not reached the stage to be considered “Done.” Too many WIPs can cause workers to have to multi-task, taking their attention away from singular tasks which could have been completed more quickly. Any time you have to pull a worker off of one task to start on another it is distracting and leads to bottlenecks in production flow. By reducing, not eliminating, WIP you learn to spot inefficiencies and eliminate future roadblocks to production.

  5. Define What “Done” Means
    Anyone in production knows that the finished piece is only as good as the sum of all its parts, meaning each stage is a handoff to the next person in line. Passing on incomplete, inadequate work or misinformation can not only delay the job, but may result in a poor final product. Be very clear about what “Done” means throughout each stage of the process so that there isn’t any confusion that could hamper quality, productivity or morale.

Pro Tip: Just remember the basic rule of thumb when it comes to your KanBan board: Keep it simple.

We’re always on the lookout for ways you can improve operations and increase your profitability. From cutting tools, abrasives and cutting fluid to safety and MRO supplies, we are your full line distributor. If you have questions on how M&M Sales & Equipment can help you, please call one of our four Texas locations.

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KanBan in Manufacturing Can Eliminate Bottlenecks and Maximize Capacity

Are you looking for ways to identify and stop bottlenecks and waste in your facility?

Sure. Who isn’t looking to optimize operations to achieve maximum results with minimal investment? For that reason, many manufacturing facilities and machine shops alike are starting to look to lean manufacturing techniques to help them get there.

Kanban systems are one such method that offer production teams the support they need to get the most out of their operational processes. Following the design of pull systems and just-in-time inventory plans, Kanban cards are small cards with important information related to specific operational processes. These cards can include information about materials and part descriptions, identifying bar codes, routing information, lead time, supplier information, order date, due date, responsible parties and more.

Kanban boards are ideal for controlling production and making operational processes visible when used as part of a lean manufacturing program. Kanbans are best described as visual markers that highlight each step of the manufacturing process. Kanbans not only helps to visualize the workflow process, but also the actual work that passes through the process. By increasing the visibility of the work to be done, over time you begin to eliminate wasted labor, inventory and time.

Related: 5 Ways to Reduce Scrap in Your Metal Cutting Operations

7 Surprising Ways Kanban Can Support Your Manufacturing Goals

  1. Measure and manage workflow
    Kanbans allow production teams to have both a high-level view of workload, as well as more detailed information regarding individual tasks and priorities. Kanban systems for manufacturing can also help measure team members’ progress through each stage of the workflow.

  2. Communicate more effectively
    The use of a Kanban board in your facility ensures clear and accurate communication of goals, policies and expectations without confusion. Every affected employee knows exactly what is required at every stage of the operation.

  3. Limit Work in Progress (WIP)
    With an effective Kanban system in place, it’s easier to visualize workflow and backlogs at various points in time and concentrate on completing existing work before taking on new work. This offers added insight into current workload to determine if work needs to be cut back or if you have capacity to add more.

  4. Improve customer satisfaction
    Using Kanban to optimize your production flows, your company can complete more work on time and in budget. Not only does this lead to happy customers, but also loyal customers who are more likely to act as evangelists on your behalf.

  5. Reduce worker stress
    Individual workers, production teams and management alike experience reduced stress with the successful implementation of Kanban in their facility. Kanban offers enhanced visibility into operations and helps managers understand conflicting priorities and create solutions that eliminate bottlenecks. Workers can now focus on what they do best, rather than what is piling up ahead.

  6. Improve safety and compliance
    Kanban in manufacturing not only helps to reduce production costs and waste, but can help improve safety. A smooth workflow guided by clear standard operating procedures (SOP) can eliminate bad habits and faulty material and equipment, resulting in fewer accidents and more consistency in safety programs throughout the facility.

  7. Improve collaboratively and continuously
    When all parts of the process are understood by all affected employees, it’s easier to spot potential problem areas and brainstorm solutions collectively. Plus, all stakeholders have improved visibility with a clear and consistent view of the workflow.
M&M Sales & Equipment Kanban Tips for Manufacturing

Related from Medium: Learn more about various types of Kanban cards here.

It’s no secret that lean manufacturing methods have been key to the success of many small and mid-size manufacturing facilities. When Kanban is used with other lean manufacturing best practices, managers have experienced lower overhead and inventory costs, improved reporting, standardized production goals, better teamwork and increased accuracy.

We’re always on the lookout for ways you can improve operations and increase your profitability. From cutting tools, abrasives and cutting fluid to safety and MRO supplies, we are your full line distributor. If you have questions on how M&M Sales & Equipment can help you, please call one of our four Texas locations.


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