The original concepts of Kanban (カンバン) were developed in the 1940s and 50s by Taiichi Ohno as part of the Toyota Production System, as a mechanism to control Just-In-Time (JIT) production and manufacturing processes. Kanban, which approximately translates as ‘signboard’, is described as a ‘visual process management system that tells what to produce, when to produce it, and how much to produce’. The modern Kanban method, as formulated by David J Anderson in 2007, is an adaption of the original JIT approach, with an emphasis on staff welfare and continuous process improvement practices.
At its simplest, each prioritised task (or card) on a Kanban Board passes through a visualisation of the team’s process, or workflow, as they happen. Each primary activity in the team’s workflow is visualised as columns on the Kanban Board, usually starting at task definition, and finishing with delivery to the customer. Of course, being agile, these cards and activities are visible to all participants, including the customer.
To identify, and control, bottlenecks and process limitations, each workflow state (or column) has a limit, called a WIP, or Work In Progress limit, to the number of currently active tasks. This allows managers and team members to regularly monitor, and measure, the flow of work.
References[edit | edit source]
- Toyota Production System: Beyond Large-Scale Production, Ohno (1988).
- Kanban: Successful Evolutionary Change for Your Technology Business, Anderson (2010).