Kanban is a system of managing inventory and manufacturing processes that originated in Japan. The word Kanban translates to a ‘signal card’ or ‘visual card’, both describing the physical cards that are used in a Kanban system to indicate when a task needs to be performed or an item needs to be restocked. However, Kanban has evolved beyond just physical cards to more digital-based systems. The benefits of implementing a Kanban system in manufacturing are numerous but they come with challenges that manufacturers must tackle if they are serious about implementing it.
One significant benefit of the Kanban system is that it enables manufacturers to have real-time visibility of the progress of their manufacturing systems. This system enables visualization of the state of a manufacturing line, how tasks are being executed, and inventory levels. Manufacturers can identify bottlenecks in production, trace orders, and lower inventory levels, which leads to significant cost savings.
Another benefit of the Kanban system is minimizing waste. This system reduces unnecessary stock and decreases lead time in the manufacturing process, leading to a more efficient manufacturing process with less waste. This enables manufacturers to improve their responsiveness to customer demands, as they can satisfy orders on time.
Moreover, the Kanban system promotes teamwork in manufacturing companies. By making use of visual signals, Kanban promotes open communication within a team, leading to better collaboration and shared responsibilities. In addition, the system promotes lean or just-in-time manufacturing where materials and products are delivered and stocked only when they are needed, promoting better teamwork while ensuring cost savings.
Nevertheless, there are also challenges in adopting a Kanban system. One of the primary challenges is transitioning from traditional manufacturing to the Kanban system and the costs that come with it. Implementing a Kanban system requires a restructuring of operations and workforce training to understand and handle the new system. This can be expensive, and some manufacturers may shy away from introducing it.
Another challenge is the management of inventory levels. Inventory control is a critical aspect of the Kanban system, as it ensures that goods are only produced when needed, thus saving on inventory costs. However, maintaining optimal inventory levels is critical to the success of the system. If inventory levels are too low, the company can face stock-outs leading to lost sales opportunities. If inventory levels are too high, the company will suffer from high inventory carrying costs.
In conclusion, the benefits of implementing a Kanban system in manufacturing outweigh the challenges that come with it. Manufacturers can gain a competitive advantage by implementing a Kanban system, which ultimately leads to a more efficient manufacturing process, reduced waste, cost savings, and improved responsiveness to customer demands. The challenges should be seen as temporary obstacles that can be overcome, with the potential rewards being significant in terms of improving the bottom line. If a manufacturer believes in investing in a Kanban system, they should face the challenges head-on and implement the system with the help of experts.