You might have heard of the Kanban system if you’ve spent much time around manufacturing plants or warehouses. Kanban cards and boards are scheduling systems that show where materials, components, and tasks are in a factory.
The boards also tell you where a company is falling short of targets, providing an early warning system for bottlenecks and other problems that can delay production and increase delivery times.
What Is a Kanban Card? All You Need to Know
Taiichi Ohno originally developed these cards for use in Toyota® factories in the late 1940s. Ohno borrowed the word kanban from Japanese, which referred to elaborate wooden or metal plates first used as trademarks in 17th century Japan. Since the middle of the 20th century, less complex kanban cards have been used in factories worldwide to reduce costs.
Kanban cards are essential pieces on the Kanban board as they represent the work the team is working on. On these cards:
- End Date
A column on the Kanban board represents the stage of work, and you can set a “Work In Progress” limit on the column. Work in Progress limit means the maximum number of cards that can remain in that column.
Since Kanban project management uses a pull-based system, a developer can draw a card from the to-do column to the development column when and when free.
How does a Kanban project work?
In this method, users start with a project board. This dashboard will have columns that show each stage of a project or a process in the workflow. Your Kanban board can have a simple process with the standard three lists/columns “Working on,” “Done,” and “Stuck” as follows. But this is not the only option.
If you have different tasks for different days, you can organize your board to have seven columns for the days of the week – but this is closer to a Scrum board than a traditional Kanban board.
With the right platform, you can adapt your columns to any variation a project demands. You can define the workflow and use as many columns as you need.
- Kanban methodology supports physical and digital dashboards for visualization.
- Kanban is a pull-based system, and cards are drawn from the previous stage to the current stage by team members.
- The Kanban method uses the CFD diagram to understand the team’s lead time and cycle time. This chart helps teams bridge the gap between these two schedules and increase productivity.
- The Kanban development methodology, Work in Progress, limit the number of tasks/cards that can be worked on by one or all team members at once.
- Work In Progress boundaries focuses on getting things done while a person focuses on one task at a time.
The Kanban system determines the number of parts to be produced in production, the type of parts to be sent to the customer, which part will go to which customer, etc. All stages such as these are controlled by these pieces of paper.
Therefore, these cards, which are described as pieces of paper, are money. You have to train every employee. However, although you provide training on this, problems such as printing the wrong kanban, sending the wrong part to the customer, and under- and over-production are encountered. Therefore, this system should be checked very regularly and meticulously.
The 4 Kanban Principles
Before applying the Kanban Method, it is important to understand and adopt its basic principles:
Start there with what you’re doing – Kanban requires no specific setup and can be applied directly to your existing workflow. This simplifies implementation as you don’t need to change your current processes.
You have to accept the change – Major changes can annoy teams, break the flow and hurt performance. Kanban is designed to meet minimal resistance, encouraging continuous, incremental, and evolutionary changes.
Respect the current process, roles, and responsibilities – There should be no organizational changes in the beginning. Kanban, you must recognize that existing processes, functions, and guilt can have value and are worth protecting.
Support leadership at all levels: Kanban supports leadership and decision-making among all members. If the lowest-ranked team member has a bright idea, it should be accepted and embraced. Everyone needs to foster a continuous improvement (Kaizen) mindset for their employees to achieve optimum performance.
Virtual or physical Kanban card templates
Generally, a Kanban system will include a categorized Kanban board throughout a workflow and a portion of color-coded Post-it notes detailing specific tasks. This can be a physical board or digital with a piece of software like Monday.com.
On Monday.com, you create columns and assign digital cards to each column and add members to those cards. The view is filterable, so you only see your workload, or you can expand it. So you can see what others are working on. Second, it makes it easier for you to understand where bottlenecks or problems are or whether you perform at the same level as others.
A physical Kanban board can be like an intelligent whiteboard or as simple as a blank wall. You have to divide the space into sections and paste the Post-it notes with job names and member information in the relevant fields. I have given an example below. It’s a bit complex, though. The Kanban board can be much simpler and grow with your team and business.