Different Types of Kanban

I know my last post was about the concept of kanban.  It has been a concept that springboarded a lot of my learning over the years.  It may have started with implementing a kanban system but ended up learning about visual management, the seasonality of the business, what the customer is demanding, and change management.

There are two important learnings that I have had when implementing a kanban system.  Two that I thought I would share.

The first lesson is that when a kanban system is mentioned people jump to a conclusion that all materials will be handled in one way.  All the materials will be set with a min/max.  The min being the reorder point and the max being the point to fill the order to.  This assumption scares people because setting everything to a min/max system would mean increasing inventory overall and holding inventory on some parts for a very long time.  This is not a smart thing to do.  People need to know that a system can be put into place that takes each component into consideration and does the right thing for that component.

This brings me to the second lesson.  What is the appropriate way to handle each component?

So far, I have learned three ways to handle a component in a kanban system.

The first way is the typical kanban replenishment system.  A minimum is set for a reorder point based on lead time and safety stock.  The maximum is the highest quantity wanted on hand at one time.  I have found the best time to use this is when a component is used on a nearly daily basis and in high quantities.

The second way is another typical way.  The non-replenishment kanban.  This is a kanban that is filled but not recirculated.  I have found this to be best used when a component is needed for a very short period of time, a day or week, and then the component is not used for a long period of time.

The third way is what I call a seasonal kanban.  It is a component that will be used frequently and with higher demand but only for a short period of time, a month, two, three.  It is long enough that a non-replenishment kanban is not proper to use and a replenishment is too permanent.  What I have done is set up the component on a replenishment kanban but when the use is winding down, I convert it to a non-replenishment.  When the season is over the component has no inventory so things aren’t stored for an unnecessary amount of time.

Using a combination of these three can make for a very efficient system.

Posted on February 7, 2011, in Learning, Tools, Waste and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. This is an interesting article and I liked the different types of kanban, but could you give examples of each type of system?

    • Ann –
      I hope this example will answer your question. A kanban system that I worked on was for a component made from copper tubing. The tubing went into the finished product. There were 450 individual copper component numbers that could be used across our line of products.

      Replenishment Kanban – We found that 150 of the 450 copper components were used almost everyday. This 150 components we put on a normal replenishment kanban. Parts would be pulled from the supermarket. When the level dropped to a particular level it triggered an order to be kicked off for the supplier to make more of that copper component.

      Non-Replenishment Kanban – Out of the remaining 450 copper components we found about 100 more that would be needed for a week’s worth of product or the odds and end products. These components were used for the one time and then not needed for a very long time. We put these on a non-replenishment kanban that we colored different than the rest. We would see the products needing these components coming so we would add the Non-Replenishment Kanban order to the supplier. They would build the components, the assembly lines would use the components, and then the Non-Replenishment Kanban signal would be thrown away so we didn’t build more.

      Seasonal Kanban – The last 200 copper components would be used in products that would be built for a 1-3 months and then not built for a long time. When we saw these products coming we would set up a Replenishment Kanban for the copper components to use for the time the product was running. When we saw the seasonal product start to drop, we would change the color of the signal to the Non-Replenishment Kanban signal so when the copper components were used up we would just throw away the signal and not build anymore new ones.

      I hope this an example you were looking for.

  2. Thank you that helps a lot. We have a seasonal business as well (Holiday Cards) so I was hoping to learn more about seasonal kanban.


  3. Interesting. I like the idea of seasonal kanban, but wondering how the above example can relate more to… say a non-manufacturing example: software development or personal kanban?

    • I would have to know more about your examples, but I haven’t ran into a situation where I needed a seasonal Kanban for software development (project management) or personal work. In either case, I have used a kanban board to limit the work glow into the work stream. For instance, if there are 10 projects to be done and I only have 3 people, I wpuld have 6 projects on the board in vario stages and 4 in a waiting pool. I try to assign only 2 projects per person based on studies that show any more than that and multitasking becomes less effective.

      Down the side of the board is each person’s name. Across the top are stages of the project. Each prson has 2 lanes going across the board. A card is moved across the board as the project progresses. when complete the card goes in the complete pile and a new card goes on the board.

      the capacity is the number of people times 2. Of you have peak periods of work there are different ways to address that.

      Did this help?

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