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Kanban Scheduling

How It Works 

How It Works

Kanban scheduling systems operate like supermarkets. A small stock of every item sits in a dedicated location with a fixed space allocation. Customers come to the store and visually select items. An electronic signal goes to the supermarket's regional warehouse detailing which items have sold. The warehouse prepares a (usually) daily replenishment of the exact items sold.

In modern supermarkets Kanban signals come from checkout scanners. They travel electronically (usually once a day) to the warehouse. Smaller stores still use visual systems. Here, a clerk walks the aisles daily. From empty spaces he deduces what sold and orders replacements.

Another variation is the bread truck. Here drivers follow a fixed route from store to store. They have a supply of bakery items in their truck. At each stop, they examine the stock and replenish what has been sold.

Kanban scheduling in manufacturing works in the same way. The essential elements of a system are:

  • Stockpoint(s)

  • A Withdrawal Signal

  • Immediate Feedback

  • Frequent Replenishment

Kanban Schematic

Kanban Schematic

This graphic illustrates how a Kanban system connects the upstream supplier or workcenter with a downstream user or customer. It operates through a small stockpoint and a signaling system.

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Supermarket Kanban

Kanban In A Supermarket

The entire buy-replenishment cycle is 1-3 days. Supermarkets have the highest inventory turnover of almost any business. One of several legends says that the supermarket was the original inspiration for Kanban.

Manufacturing Kanban

Kanban In Manufacturing

Here, the supermarket principle is applied to a machining and assembly operation. Machining and assembly have very different requirements and considerations for scheduling. Kanban compensates for these differing requirements.

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