Kanban, a subsystem within the Toyota Production System, was popularized throughout the world alongside just-in-time (JIT), fool-proofing, heijunka, kaizen, andon, hoshin kanri, etc., as part of Lean Manufacturing approaches and techniques. Kanban’s simplicity, effectiveness, and robustness are well-understood by many.
At the same time, it is probably one of the most misunderstood Lean terminologies regarding what it is and how it works. Rather than adopting the intended purpose of the original Kanban system, some take the literal translation of the word. Since the literal translation of the word Kanban is signboard, many have taken the position that any visual board that provides visibility is not only a Kanban board, but also leads them to believe they are using Kanban. Search the word “Kanban board” on any popular search engine, and you will see this is true. While this is a brilliant (or devious) marketing ploy to attract those that are looking to enhance their organization or project’s performance through the adoption of Lean techniques, this exacerbates the confusion as to what Kanban really is.
In this paper, we will describe what Kanban is (and is not), how it works, why it is effective, and how to leverage it for the delivery of capital, deployment projects, and their supply networks
H.J. James Choo, PhD
Project Production Institute
H.J. James Choo, Ph.D is Chief Technical Officer of Strategic Project Solutions, Inc. and a member of the Technical Committee for Project Production Institute (PPI).