The Kanban system is a planning system for production control. the Kanban system is often split into material flow and replenishment are controlled starting from the processing location, based on the goods used here. Since it is not possible to act flexibly in centrally controlled planning systems, they require a high stock level, which in turn leads to high warehousing costs.

The Kanban principle aims to create an on-demand production at all production levels and thereby reduce material stocks in the warehouse. The entire value chain is thus to be managed in a cost-optimized manner and the planning effort reduced.

Functions in the Kanban system

The procedure’s design ensures that only those materials are available at the production site that are actually consumed. The Kanban system uses Kanban cards. These cards are the primary control element and contain all relevant data for storage as well as for production, purchasing and transportation.

The Kanban system is used, for example, by the automobile manufacturers Toyota and Mercedes Benz (Mercedes plants in Sindelfingen, Rastatt, Gaggenau).

In practice, two variants of the Kanban system find application. We differentiate between them:

  • Transport Kanban
  • Procurement Kanban

With the Transport Kanban, so-called Kanban signals (see Technology) are used to mediate between production, suppliers and, if necessary, the stationary trade (supermarket). A logistics or production center uses the Transport Kanban. It transports products, parts and materials according to plan through the entire production line.

With the Procurement Kanban, the production line is also the customer/consumer. The procurement route is usually managed internally. The respective production section reports its material requirements to the upstream process and then produces only for the subsequent process as required.

Kanban today

Technically, the supply of production lines and supermarkets, as well as hospitals and mail order companies, is usually controlled electronically. What the Kanban cards, as mentioned above, did analogously at the time is now done by storage media such as barcodes or RFID chips. The Internet serves as the transmission medium.

A Kanban as an identification card:

1. The Kanban serves as an order card.
When material parts are consumed, the Kanban functions as an order card. To avoid bottlenecks in stock, orders are placed in the upstream production stage as soon as the demand for material parts arises. The demand occurs when the stock level falls below a defined minimum level.

2. The Kanban serves as an identification card for the newly produced or ordered material part.

In the Kanban system, neighboring production stages are connected to form a control cycle, which enables the successive stages to be easily coordinated. Finally, the material can be withdrawn in the correct time and quantity from a buffer store between the levels.

Depending on the operational requirements, the following information, for example, is listed on the cards:

  • Kanban ID
  • Kanban lot size
  • Total number of Kanban types for an article
  • Item No.
  • Article designation
  • Storage location source
  • Goal/Consumer
  • barcodes

For more information about Kanban in logistics go see the article Kanban and swarm intelligence at management level.

Image source: © Jeff.lasovski, License: (CC BY-SA 3.0)


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