definition, interest and tips for applying it

definition, interest and tips for applying it


Kanban is one of the project management methods aimed at continuous improvement of processes with the aim of better organizing tasks between the different teams. This work tool and its mode of visualization in the form of a table are based on communication of the progress of the project in real time and in total transparency to all the teams involved in its realization.

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What is the Kanban method?

Kanban first appeared in the 1950s in the automotive industry, specifically at Toyota. The company developed the method based on the inventory management used by large retailers with the aim of moving from a mass production system to just-in-time production.

The goal was to find a planning method allowing teams to optimize their production capacity by adapting it to customer demand in order to maximize time and resource savings.

Based on demand and not on supply, the Kanban method, or JIT (just in time) manufacturing process, consists of manufacturing and stocking just what is needed to meet consumer demand.

Kanban is one of the so-called “agile” methods in the same way as Scrum and allows you to visualize all the tasks in a very visual way on a Kanban board, accessible in real time by all project members. The planning of the different tasks is intended to be more flexible and the workload can be adapted according to each person’s abilities.

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The method uses card or tag systems, called “Kanban”. Each of them corresponds to a specific customer order. They clearly indicate the tasks to be carried out, to whom they are assigned and by what time they must be carried out. The activities are listed in one of the three columns of the table according to their state of progress (to do, in progress, finished).

What about the Kanban vs. Scrum method? While both pursue the same goal of reducing waste through iterative work systems, they are however very different in their implementation.

Above all, Kanban seeks to limit the tasks in progress so as not to scatter and lose efficiency. The roles of each are not immutable and all members of the project are encouraged to collaborate and intervene in case of overload. Missions are ranked according to their priority level and can be completed at a different pace.

The Scrum method, on the other hand, is based on iteration phases of two to four weeks, called “sprints”. These time units are specifically dedicated to the accomplishment of one or more specific tasks and no other activity can begin before the end of the sprint.

What is the purpose of Kanban?

Thanks to its system of visual references, most often cards of different colors, Kanban works as a control method for organizing activities within a process. It aims to:

  • Limit the risk of overproduction by opting for a JIT manufacturing process.
  • Better manage inventory and avoid waste.
  • Reduce lead times and production costs.
  • Optimize the use of resources.
  • Improve performance monitoring.
  • React quickly in the event of a problem.

What are the 3 types of Kanban?

The Production Kanban

The production Kanban is usually split into three columns (to do, in progress, and done). Each card is positioned in one of the three columns according to its state of progress. It must specify the nature of the tasks to be performed, the deadline for completion and the person(s) responsible for the activity. The cards then move from one column to another throughout the production process. When a card is moved from the “To do” column to the “In progress” column, for example, it frees up space for a new card.

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The Movement Kanban

Movement Kanban is used in batch-based production processes. In a dressing factory, for example, there are three production steps: sterilization, blistering and boxing.

If the batches are made up of 10 units, blistering can only begin when the 10 units have passed the sterilization stage. This method makes it possible to use human and financial resources in an optimal way.

The E-Kanban

As its name suggests, the E-Kanban is simply the digital version of the traditional Kanban. This tool brings more flexibility and efficiency to teams in project management.

How to use the Kanban method?

Visualize the workflow

The Kanban method is mainly based on the visualization of the workflow through the Kanban board. All of the tasks to be carried out are listed, then formalized individually on a map and positioned in one of the three columns of the table according to their state of progress.

For a quick and intuitive visual check, colors can be used inside the different columns to provide details, such as indicating the priority of the activity (normal, urgent or non-urgent) or identifying the type of customer concerned . Symbols and arrows can also be added, the objective being to have access to information as easily as possible.

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Limit running tasks

Limiting the number of running tasks results in:

  • Allow teams to focus on a limited number of activities.
  • To optimize the sequence of the project by adding new cards only if the collaborators are sufficiently available to support them.
  • To improve performance by avoiding overloading the teams and by offering them the possibility of locating bottlenecks before they become an obstacle to the progress of the project.

Follow flows

The Kanban method helps manage flows by highlighting the progress of each activity. This makes it easy to identify regular flows and where work is piling up and preventing new tasks from being added. Kanban allows the team to analyze the workflow and make the necessary adjustments to improve it, in particular by reducing the time required to complete each mission.

Explain process standards

To successfully implement the method, it is important to formalize the processes and the way each employee must perform their tasks. This requires well-defined common rules, for example, in the form of checklists of steps to follow for each type of activity.

Identify possible improvements

Throughout the process, it is essential to encourage the teams to express themselves on the problems they encounter and on the solutions for improvement they suggest. The success of Kanban depends above all on everyone’s collaboration and the ability to constantly evaluate and improve the process.

To go further, download this free guide to project management and discover how to optimize your project management, thanks to the right method and the right tools.The guide to project management

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