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The Kanban Method: introduction guide for beginners

The Kanban Method: introduction guide for beginners

Posted by David Galiana, on Monday 11 April 2022

Do you want to create less waste, have more visibility on your tasks, be more efficient and better manage your costs? With the Kanban method, all of this is possible.

This agile method helps you better manage your inventory so that you can produce exclusively according to consumer demand. Its success was proven in the industrial world, and more specifically in the automobile industry.

Here is what you need to know about the Kanban method.

Definition

The Kanban method is an agile method. It is a method of inventory management whose primary aim is to set up a just-in-time organization, that’s to say to only produce what we need at a given time T in order to avoid stocks which are more expensive.

The Kanban method is inspired by the Lean approach, a production management method based on continual improvement and which aims to eliminate waste in order to make the company more efficient and performant.

Origins of the Kanban Method

Kanban means to sign, or label in Japanese. This method was created by the engineer Taiichi Ōno for the Japanese automobile company Toyota, which has used the method since the 1950s. The objective was to optimise its production capacity to be competitive with American companies by reducing stocks and therefore the costs associated with them.

First used in industry, the Kanban method was later picked up by computer software developers in the 2000s, and then adopted by companies in all sectors.

How does it work?

The Kanban method is a visual management method which allows you to visualise the process of carrying out a task.

Table Layout

It takes the form of a table with three or even four columns:

  • To do: these are the tasks to be performed.
  • In progress: this column groups together the tasks that are in progress.
  • To be tested: here, we find the tasks to be tested, those which are awaiting validation from the client.
  • Completed: Finally, in the last column, are the completed tasks.

Tasks are are represented by cards, labels or post-it notes that are moved from one column to another depending on the status of the task.

Pulled flows and pushed flows

Typically, companies work in pushed flows, meaning that they produce goods without taking into account the demand, and then they push them into the market. The problem is that if the consumer isn’t interested or if the market is already saturated, you find yourself with a large quantity of stocks on your hands, and that costs you money.

Conversely, the Kanban method works on pulled flows. This means that the production of goods is triggered by consumer demand. You only produce what you need, and you save money.

Principles and practices

David J. Anderson is one of the pioneers who implemented the Kanban method outside of the industrial sector. According to him, this method is based on four principles and six practices.

Principle no1: start with what you are currently doing

No radical change is necessary to implement the Kanban method. Its flexibility and adaptability allow it to be introduced easily and gradually into any type of organisation.

Principle no2: agree to apply gradual changes

Avoid changes that are too sudden or drastic and that risk frightening your employees. The Kanban method makes it possible to gradually and smoothly improve existing processes.

Principle no3: respect the current process, roles and responsibility

Do you want the coming changes to be accepted? Then preserve everyone’s current roles, responsibilities and professional titles as much as possible.

Principle no4: encourage leadership at all levels

All of your employees, whatever their job, must develop a culture of continuous improvement so that the team, the department and the company reach an optimum level of performance.

Follow these 6 practices to successfully implement the Kanban method:

  1. Visualise the workflow: to get started, you need to visualize your workflow from customer request to delivery in order to understand how it works. To do that, draw a table in which each column represents a step in the workflow and use cards to identify each task. Each time you start working on a task, the ‘to-do’ column must be replaced with the ‘in progress’ column, and so on until the ‘completed’ column.
  2. Limit the number of tasks in progress: the advantage of Kanban is to ensure a reasonable workload according to the capabilities of the team. Avoid multitasking which is counterproductive and will waste time. Limiting tasks in each column will allow you to quickly identify the problems and sticking points.
  3. Manage the flow: the goal of the Kanban system is to create a continuous and regular workflow. To do that, focus on how to get tasks into the table faster.
  4. Explain process rules: to improve work processes, you and your employees must first understand them and understand why they need improving. Once the goal is clear, everyone can move forward in the right direction.
  5. Make feedback loops: in front of your Kanban table, check in daily with the team to share the necessary information and find out what everyone did the day before and who is doing what today. These meetings must be short and straight to the point. Discover 5 ideas to lead your team meetings.
  6. Make improvements together: the whole team should share a common vision and understand the problems which need to be resolved. In this way, you can work together to improve your workflow.

By using task management software, you can create an interactive Kanban table and share it easily with all stakeholders in your project.

 

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