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Lean Kanban Systems: Streamlining Business Processes

Updated: Jan 12

The Kanban system is a scheduling system for lean manufacturing to improve business

efficiency and streamline workflow management.

Organisations often turn to Lean tools and methodologies such as Value Stream Mapping, and 5 Whys to optimise their operations and among these tools, the Kanban system has emerged as a powerful technique to achieve continuous improvement and increased productivity.

In this article, we’ll explore the basics of the Kanban system, its Continuous

Improvement benefits, transformative impact on workflow management, and provide

practical tips for its implementation.


Person looking at computer screen with lean kaban system on it

Basics of the Kanban system

The Kanban system, originating from Toyota’s manufacturing processes, has evolved

into a versatile tool used in various industries.

At its core, Kanban is a workflow management system that enables organisations to

visualise their work processes, identify bottlenecks, and enhance efficiency.

The fundamental principles of the Kanban system

Visualising workflow: Kanban uses visual boards or cards to represent tasks or

projects. These cards move through different stages of a process, providing a

real-time snapshot of work in progress.

Limiting work in progress (WIP): Set limits on the number of tasks that can be

in progress at any given time to prevent overloading resources and maintain a

steady workflow.

● Pull system: Kanban follows a pull-based approach, where work items are

pulled into the next stage of the process only when there is capacity, as opposed

to a push system where work is pushed onto resources regardless of capacity.

● Continuous Improvement: Kanban encourages a culture of learning and

adaptation by making issues visible and prompting teams to analyse and resolve

them.


Benefits of Kanban in Continuous Improvement

The Kanban system offers many benefits for organisations striving towards continuous

improvement:

Enhanced efficiency: Kanban optimises workflow by eliminating bottlenecks

and reducing idle time, leading to improved overall efficiency.

● Increased productivity: By limiting WIP, teams can focus on completing tasks

before starting new ones, resulting in faster task completion and increased

productivity.

● Improved quality: Kanban’s visual cues and Continuous Improvement focus

help identify and address quality issues promptly, resulting in higher product

and service quality.

● Flexibility: Kanban is adaptable to different processes and industries, making it

suitable for a wide range of applications.

Reduced lead times: The pull system reduces lead times and ensures that work

items are delivered more quickly.

Practical Tips for Implementation

Implementing Kanban successfully requires careful planning and execution. Here are

some practical tips to consider:

● Start small: Begin with a single team or process to pilot the Kanban system

before scaling it to your entire organisation.

● Provide training: Ensure that team members understand the principles and

mechanics of Kanban with training and workshops.

● Customise boards: Tailor Kanban boards to fit your specific workflow and

processes, making them as simple or detailed as needed.

Regular reviews: Hold regular meetings to review progress, identify issues, and

make necessary adjustments.

● Continuous Improvement: Encourage a culture of continuous improvement by

using Kanban to identify and address process inefficiencies.

An example of Kanban streamlining…


Using Kanban to manage projects

Here’s a step-by-step example of how a manufacturing company can use Kanban to

manage its project…

1. You must first understand the current workflow for creating your Kanban board.

Identify the steps involved in the manufacturing process, from raw materials

procurement to finished product delivery.

2. You can use a physical board with sticky notes or a digital platform (like Trello or

Jira) to create your Kanban board. Add columns to represent different stages of your

manufacturing process – your first ones might include ‘To-Do,’ ‘In Progress,’ and ‘Done.’

3. Identify individual tasks within each project – these might be cutting, welding,

painting, quality control, and packaging. Each should be represented by a Kanban card,

which contains relevant information like the item description, priority, and due date.

4. Determine how many work items can progress at each stage of the workflow without

causing bottlenecks or overloading your team. WIP limits ensure that work flows

smoothly and resources are not spread too thin. Enforce WIP limits strictly.

5. Cards should move from left to right as work progresses through the workflow. Team

members should be able to see the current status of each task at a glance.

6. Use colour-coding or tags to prioritise each work item. This allows your team to focus

on the most critical tasks first and ensures that high-priority items are addressed

promptly.

7. Regularly review your Kanban board with your team. Discuss any bottlenecks or

issues that arise and collaborate on solutions. Continuous Improvement is a

fundamental aspect of Kanban, so be open to making adjustments to your workflow to

increase efficiency and quality.

8. As your manufacturing company gains experience with Kanban, consider expanding

its use to other departments or projects. Adapt and refine your Kanban system based on

the specific needs of your organisation.


By visualising their work in this manner, the team can efficiently manage their tasks, ensure a smooth workflow, and continuously improve their processes.

Learn more about Kanban

The Kanban system is a powerful tool for enhancing business efficiency and

streamlining workflow management. Its adaptability, visual nature, and focus on

continuous improvement make it an invaluable asset for organisations seeking to

optimise their processes and deliver high-quality results.

By understanding the basics of Kanban and implementing it effectively, businesses can

achieve greater productivity, reduced lead times, and improved overall performance.

If you would like more information about Lean Kanban Systems or would like to sign up

for one of our courses, please contact us:

● Phone: 0161 533 1617

● Email: hello@manufacturersnetwork.co.uk

● Or get in touch online.


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