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Kanban is a system that pulls inventory or work in process (WIP) through the manufacturing process. A Kanban is a signal to the previous operation that it requires more work. An effective Kanban system controls the work in process. Kanban is one of the key components of just in time manufacturing.
An example of how Kanban works in a large industrial setting is that management has determined that the maximum number of “widgets” that is wanted at any operation is 10 and that product should be moved from operation to operation in groups of 5. Therefore, when the inventory in front of an operation drops below 5, a signal is sent to the previous operation to send 5 more widgets over.
The ideal Kanban level is 0; that is there is no inventory at an operation and it gets product just as it is finishing the part it is working on. This usually is impractical and would result in significant downtime. A Kanban level is determined that is minimizes disruption while minimizing inventory.
In many manufacturing companies, material is moved from operation to operation in carts. Usually the part size and travel distance determines the method of transporting and storing work in process. In these cases the cart could be used as the signal to bring in more inventories. In a simple example, the cart holds one piece. As soon as an operation removes the piece from the cart, it is returned to the previous operation and signals that it is ready for another piece. Sometimes two carts are used, where an empty cart provides the signal to pull more inventory.
Custom designed and built Kanban carts give the manufacturer opportunities to reduce handling and storage costs while controlling inventory with Kanban. For example the cart could be made so that a part can easily slide onto a machine bed. Factors such as ergonomics, cleanliness, Kanban size, part size are some of the considerations when designing a Kanban cart.
Packnet can work with any manufacturer to custom design a Kanban cart that maximizes productivity, safety and cycle time throughout its operation.