“Kanban” is the Japanese word for signboard, in other words, a kind of signal. So, Kanbans are Pull signals that are used to connect process steps that are not suitable for continuous flow. With Kanban systems, you can tie two process steps together, just like an invisible conveyer. These systems can be electronic, card-based, or visual.

Kanbans are inspired by the supermarket principle:

  1. Customer demand goes to the earlier process (supermarket) to acquire the required products in the exact quantity needed at the time of need
  2. The earlier process immediately replenishes the shelves with the quantity required (restocking the shelves) from the local inventory
  3. Replenishment of the shelves triggers an order to the supplier to replenish the local inventory

Kanbans are an important production system tool to support Pull.

Learn more about this topic in our Lean Six Sigma Basics Online Course (Demo currently not available for Internet Explorer).

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