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  • Metal Fabrication And Kanban

    Metal Fabrication And Kanban

    Kanban Defined

    Kanban means “visual card” in Japanese and was developed by Toyota.  Kanban helps businesses employ just-in-time (JIT) production.   It is employed as a cue that is emitted through the supply chain to tell staff when a supply is required.  For example, if a card is put at the bottom of a box of supplies with information about the supply on it, the staff member that uses up the last of that box of supplies removes the card and sends it on to the supply manufacturing site so that more can be ordered.  More are only sent for when the previous supply is used up.

    Kanban is called a pull system in the production realm.  Pull means demand.  New supplies are authorized only when a demand for them is necessary. Cards are not the only method of new materials being ordered.  If a carton or pallet runs out of supplies it had, for example, the empty carton or pallet can cue that a new order needs to be made.

    There are metal manufacturers that will assist companies that buy from them develop Kanban systems.  This will allow a business to have a JIT system and only have to have the manufacturer produce a product when needed.

    Kanban Benefits

    Some Kanban system advantages include inventory control so it is always lean and low turnover raw materials are minimized. When inventory turnover is maximized, productivity is increased.  Floor space need is lessened because it is not required to host a large inventory.  Customer response is improved and production lead time is improved upon since the whole production plan is based on customer needs.

    How Does Kanban Apply in the Real World?

    In our organization, Maloya, we effectively leveraged the Kanban system. This was accomplished by a number of methods.  One strategy was to implement carts that were arranged with the specific parts required to put together a product.    Each cart was filled with all of the parts and part numbers to build one of the heaters as well as photographs of the components required.  Through this format of organization, the welders could manufacture the product and not have to spend their valuable time looking for and gathering all the required parts to construct the product.  When the cart was empty, this acted as the Kanban visual card or cue that the cart required to be refilled, or supplies needed to be restocked.  Any inventory differences would also be identified early on during production.

    The Kanban visual cue for production of the heater is when the first big component is produced, which is the outer shell of the heater.  The staff in production will notice the substantial outer shell and know that they are to build a heater.  In this Kanban visual cueing system, a scheduling system is not needed as the employees understand by what they observe what they should be building.  When they notice the availability of a part, it sets off a chain reaction of a series of specific actions, starting the heater production cycle.

    As part of the Kanban system, Maloya also used an inventory tagging process.  In this process, red tags indicated that a material was supplied by a client.  Green tags signaled the material was for inventory.  Yellow was a tag for a material that was bought for specific orders.  This tagging further improved the efficiency of the process.

    A color-coded system was also used on the shop floor for work order travelers.  The colors communicate to the staff on the floor information about the product.  For example, blue would be a basic component that is produced and shipped.  Orange would indicate a component for sub-assemblies, yellow is for sub-assembly parts and black is for final assembly.

    Kanban is an effective way to have fewer inventories on the floor.  It also is efficient in communicating to staff what to do next.  As long as everyone understands the Kanban system, it can help streamline work flow in a manufacturing environment.

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