Kanban Cards: Template & System

Instructor: Saranya Ramachandran

Saranya has a Bachelors in Science focused on Electronics and Telecommunication and a Masters in Business Administration. She has 8 years of Project Management Experience and is PMP Certified.

In Japanese, Kanban stands for 'visual signs'. Kanban cards originated in the manufacturing world and are now used in software development and also as a personal efficiency tool. This lesson will explain templates and systems used in regards to kanban cards.

Purpose of Kanban cards

Taiichi Ohno was an engineer at Toyota who came up with the idea of replenishing inventory as it got used up in manufacturing cars. His inspiration was a grocery store that replenished inventory only when the shelves became empty. Kanban is a scheduling system that helps improve work efficiency and reduce waste, in addition to helping employees achieve full potential. Ohno's system focuses on minimizing waste and improving customer value. In the United States, it is sometimes referred to as Lean or just-in-time manufacturing (JIT).

Types of Kanban Cards

Using a kanban system, a company can visually see what work is being undertaken. Without a kanban system, individuals might have to spend considerable time looking for the right information. In addition to this, a kanban system has the following benefits:

  • Using the visual tool, any impediments can be quickly spotted and action can be taken to move forward.
  • Since every member of the team understands the status, communication between different teams can be improved.
  • Autonomy is attained using this tool since teams can be empowered to manage the process on their own.

Kanban systems are widely used to manage inventory. By ordering only the required inventory, considerable savings are acheived in cost and the space that is typically used to store the inventory. To start incorporating kanban in inventory management systems, an organization can use colored bins and cards. A card with a certain color might signal that the inventory needs to be replenished.

Kanban cards can be broadly categorized into two types:

  1. Physical or Analog Cards - These are physical cards with information about the product or part, such as the product number, product description, and the quantity which should trigger re-ordering the inventory.
  2. Digital Cards - Digital cards are created online and sometimes they can be overlayed on top of a kanban board.

Types of Kanban Boards and Cardholders

Kanban cards must be displayed in a specific way so that the entire team can see the progress. Below are a few ways to display the kanban cards.

  • Kanban bin systems - Task cards are placed in a bin. Once all the cards have been taken out of a bin, the worker moves to the second bin. The task might be placing the order for replenishing the parts. There is a third bin which tracks inventory at the supplier.
  • Kanban card holders and racks - Card holders and racks are mounted on the wall and with the help of sticky notes, magnets, and other similar items displaying how the project is progressing.
  • Kanban boards- Kanban boards are more popular; these use three columns (To Do, Doing, and Done) to track work progress.

Sample kanban board
Kanban Board

How To Create a Kanban Board

The time and effort required to create a kanban board depends on the size of the team and the project. The philosophy of kanban is about small, gradual improvements. Hence, kanban can be slowly introduced.

Here are three main steps to get started with Kanban:

Create a visual representation of the work

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