What is Kanban

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Kanban is a lean concept, which originated in the Japanese automotive industry (Toyota to be precise), and is often associated with just in time production methods.

At its heart Kanban is a signaling system used to signify the need for material. The system traditionally uses cards to signal need. (Kanban is not limited to using cards though and other items are sometimes used). A kanban often utilizes a multi-bin system where one bin is placed in the production line – one is placed in the stores and another placed at the supplier.

Kanbans work by using an item such as a Kanban card to trigger replenishment. Stock is placed in a storage area or bin. When stock runs out the card is sent to the store or warehouse acting as a replenishment request. In turn the card from the now empty store bin is forwarded to the supplier. Thus an effective Kanban system can keep a steady flow of materials providing the correct amount of stock when required.

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