1.0 A Beginner’s Guide to Kanban Boards

Kanban is a project management tool that has become increasingly popular among managers in today’s world. The proponents of this method believe that it has the potential to address loopholes in previous methodologies such as Waterfall and Scrum. Many people consider the method mysterious as it has a Japanese origin and is characterized by a Zen-like aura. Kanban emphasizes one of its sayings which is quoted as; “Stop starting and start finishing”. It depicts the goal orientation linked with the technique however, the question of implementation of this mantra still remains unaddressed.

This guide will encompass all necessary information regarding Kanban decoding. Additionally, it is meant specifically for newbies and includes insights, wisdom, tips and tricks from a few of the leading teachers and proponents of Kanban.

Firstly, it should be noted that Kanban is a Japanese word pronounced in its specific language as KAHN-ban. Meanwhile, its English variant is also used and is pronounced as CAN-ban.

An Insight into the Origin of Kanban #

In the 1940s, an engineer named Taiichi Ohno at Toyota developed Kanban as a one-time method for inventory control. The developer had taken inspiration from product stocking techniques of American grocery stores. The stores worked on demand and supply wherein articles were placed on shelves and were restocked based on their sales and customer demand. In this way, inventory was optimized to meet demand. This significantly improved the quality of operations and addressed the issue of stock wastage. Ohno viewed this system as a departure from the traditional top-down process where inventory was based upon pre-set schedules and vendor preferences. Thus, it was considered as a more customer-friendly and demand-centric approach.

Kanban Effectively Utilizes Visual Information #

Kanban is a Japanese word denoting a billboard, card, or sign. The Toyota manufacturing assembly workers used to employ visual cards and tokens as indications for timely inventory control and replenishment. It was similar to the bar codes attached with various physical objects in today’s world.
The Japanese grocery stores inventory system worked on restocking on the basis of product sales and depletion. They made use of the visual clue for shelves running low on supplies. Meanwhile, Toyota adopted this practice to optimize its manufacturing operations. Henceforth, it can be comprehended that Kanban focuses on work driven by demand rather than standard scheduling mechanisms.

Kanban —One step Ahead of Manufacturing #

The original Kanban system was developed in tangible distribution and manufacturing industries. However, in order to employ the same system for intangible goods, certain adjustments need to be made. It includes replacing physical cards with virtual signals shown through software or simply as numbers on a board. Such systems were known to optimize the agility of software development processes and thus were used as a standard technique in this regard. Virtual Kanban systems are widely used in almost all sectors from wholesale to retail and even healthcare. Additionally, they are also used every day by individuals as an effective tool in maintaining their daily logs and to-do lists.

According to Grady Brumbaugh, a leading trainer of Kanban at The Digital Innovation Group, Kanban is used widely by almost all teams and all projects in the current era. Brumbaugh further believes that a certain work environment is needed in order to reap optimal benefits of the Kanban system. It includes a work environment characterized by tight delivery timelines and strict work priorities.