The term Kanban refers to simple signaling or co-ordinating system that controls the release of materials for use only when needed.

The “two bin” Kanban system is commonly used in manufacturing environments (whilst it can be applied to any organization that has a material flow including offices) and it offers a efficient method of triggering stock replenishment.

Commencing with inventory/material being placed in two bins (or storage containers), one of the bins is utilized first and when material has been consumed and the first “bin” becomes empty – this empty bin acts as a replenishment signal/trigger – the second bin is then used whilst the replenishment activity takes place on the first bin.

Note that as a rule, the material in the storage bin is of sufficient quantity to last the restocking lead time. In General, Kanban cards are utilized and accompany the empty bin. The purpose of the Kanban card is that it contains information pertaining to the material required and its location. This method clearly communicates the requirement to either the warehouse or the 3rd party supplier and helps streamline the process reducing errors.

The use of bins and cards is traditionally a very visual method which helps automate the process in a simple fashion removing the need for complex analysis or material handling processes. When used effectively two bin Kanban systems are an excellent visual management method easily communicating to workers what activities are required.

As an example check out this excellent video on 2 bin kanban systems from http://www.leandesign.hu

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