Kanban Boards

Have you even faced the fact that you requested a specific and urgent study, of which you still have not received the result and at the time of trying to find out where it is, is impossible determining immediately if the person in charge of the area has already authorized your execution, if the study was already performed, whether the result is in final review or just hasn’t started?

So, you start a pilgrimage all over the facility asking and looking for clues about it, and at the end you realize that your request form remains on the assistant’s desktop and, nothing has started!

Frustrating, isn’t it? However, there is good news: Lean Manufacturing has a very simple tool that allows us visualizing exactly in which part of the process your study is, allowing to manage the times, determining the priorities of each one of them and specially, measuring the efficiency of response times.

This tool is called Kanban Boards.

Let’s start saying that Kanban is a Japanese word that means signboard or billboard, (看板). Its origin, again in Toyota by Taiichi Ono on 1940-1950s, arises from the need of controlling of overproduction waste.

In the visits Ono and his colleagues made to the United States, they were struck by the way supermarket shelves were replenished: as soon as the customer made the payment, the ticket was the signal that came to the supplier, who was in charge of refilling the products that the customer had taken out.

According to the above, Kanban System is based on cards (equivalent to bills in supermarket) that send signals at every step of the process regarding the rhythm that should be followed in a process. Because it is a continuous flow, cards help pushing the process (accelerate the rhythm in the subsequent step) or pulling (accelerate the rhythm in the previous step), in such a way process is kept in a constant and continuous flow, eliminating the waits waste.

Kanban is nothing more than a card that allows you to identify an item, control its flow and record the results. This system helps us to keep the flow of any process in the necessary quantities and in the required time.

Typically, Kanban is used in manufacturing firms placing cards in workstations, which are signals to refill parts, the quantity of pieces to be produced or the amount of work to be done and in how long.

For administrative processes, it is ideal to place a dashboard that allows you to view the process stages or simply show the tasks, the time to complete them and the progress. A simple Kanban board is like the following:

On the board, rewritable magnet cards or sticky notes can be placed. You can write on basic data such as the task to be performed, task’s owner, scheduled and actual start date, and the scheduled and actual completion date.

Also, boards can be more, let’s say, schematics, for example, it can be a flowchart on which the cards are placed every time the activity moves to the next step, placing at each step a card with the date of start and scheduled term, as well as the owner of the activity, and record the actual dates again.

They can also be funnier, for example, designing the board as a horse race, a car racing track, athletic obstacles, a rally with different stations, and cards can be photos of team members, horses, cars, etc. where information control can be kept.

Kanban boards allow to keep a daily, visual and transparent control of the flow of activities that we have in our organization, whether a department with two people or a complex manufacturing facility. Its applicability is universal.

Another advantage of Kanban boards is that it allows us generating performance indicators (KPIs): for example, if we want to show the amount of work we do and the effectiveness of our programming, or the amount of urgent work that we process, Kanban boards allow us to generate two indicators:

This indicator tells us how much work we do over a period of time. That is, if we were scheduled to perform 50 studies and executed 45, our Adherence is 90%.

On the other hand, we have the Attainment:

In this case, if of the 45 studies carried out, only 30 of the initial programmed were executed, our Attainment is 60%. This indicates that we should evaluate the causes of programming not being fulfilled.

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