Kanban Deployment Part 1/6

This is part-1 of a 6-part step-by-step series on kanban deployment.

After all the hard-work of designing kanban cards and kanban boards it’s finally time for kanban deployment! In this 6-part series we walk through the step-by-step kanban deployment process and point out a few kanban best practices on the way.

Determine Where to Deploy First
By this point it’s understandable that you (and your stakeholders) are probably itching with excitement to ‘get on with it already’ and implement the kanban solution. After all, especially if you’re organization has conducted most of the preparation work itself, a good deal of time has probably already been invested in your kanban “project”.

While, results are vital and require implementation, now more than ever, it’s important to be disciplined. With that in mind, before you can deploy the first kanban cards you must identify which areas you should focus on first to best benefit overall operations?

Even if you are just resizing, take the time to decide if there are any particular problem areas that should be prioritized when rolling out kanban cards.

To ensure optimal success during kanban implementation consider the following 4 areas:

  1. Stock-Outs
    You must deliver quality products to your customers, so your priority should always be to eliminate stock-out risk. If you are already experiencing inventory shortages, be sure to resize the affected items so that kanban deployment doesn’t exacerbate the problem!
  2. Purchased Items
    If you are implementing kanban solutions for the first time, consider starting with the items that you purchase from outside suppliers. Many savvy inventory managers take this route for a few good reasons:

    • Purchased items are delivered in batches rather than manufactured continuously. They’re a perfect fit for kanban solutions since you cannot maintain a continuous flow.
    • If you are like many sites, your raw material contributes to high on-hand dollars. Reducing inventory is a logical next step.
    Keep in mind that no decision is risk-free. Before deploying kanban solutions for purchased items, be sure to take these risks into account:

    • If there are mistakes in your kanban solutions, not only will your internal systems be disrupted, but you may also place an undue burden on one or more suppliers. Good working relationships are essential for productivity to be maintained and disrupting supplier operations can sabotage those relationships. Take care to avoid errors when determining replenishment quantities, gathering lead-time data, deploying the cards and processing orders.
    • Some cells consume both purchased inventory items and manufactured items. If you choose to only manage purchased items on kanban at first, there will likely be at least a little confusion. With two replenishment systems running simultaneously, both kanban card audits and order replenishment could end up in disarray if not monitored very closely.
    • If you have a lot of external suppliers, you may end up feeling overwhelmed after committing to deploy kanban for purchased parts. Mitigate paralysis by prioritizing the suppliers that you start on kanban. Many factors can be considered when deciding where you should focus your attention. Review each supplier’s history and determine priority based on characteristics like annual spend, supplier kanban readiness, or needed delivery improvement.
  3. Work-Cell
    Another kanban kick-off candidate is the work-cell. Choose a few cells – not too many – that have a manageable inventory list. Then, deploy the kanban solutions for the items in these cells.
    What’s good about starting with the complete work-cell is that all of the items, regardless of supplier source (internal or external), are moving to kanban. This way, you can avoid the confusion of running two different replenishment systems.
    • Before deploying the first few cells, set yourself up for success by creating a prioritized order of deployment for the rest of the cells. You should not only list the work-cells that are next for deployment, but you should also create a schedule that follows a 4-to-6 week timeline in which you will prepare to place them on kanban. Failing to do this, can allow perfectionism to sabotage implementation. Some inventory managers struggle with completing kanban deployment because they worry too much about perfecting the first phase of work cells. Stick to a schedule if you and your other stakeholders want to see benefits fast.
    • When kanban is only deployed in a few areas within a larger inventory system, there will be other many items that remain on a Materials Requirement Plan (MRP). While it can be quite confusing for workers to manage a work-cell that is on different replenishment systems, the same is not true for suppliers who fill orders that come from different replenishment systems. Switching between MRP to kanban will have little effect on the supplier’s end. They might notice that the order quantity and lead times become more consistent, but it won’t require a great effort from the supplier to navigate between filling orders for cells that are on kanban and those that are not.
  4. Value Stream
    Yet another deployment strategy is to roll out kanban by value stream or product category. There are a few points of consideration regarding the deployment of a particular value stream.

    • Sometimes a particular product family or value stream struggles to achieve operational efficiency due to inventory or delivery issues. By utilizing kanban to improve replenishment, the overall operational health of a value stream will also improve.
    • If you are brand new to kanban, be aware that by deploying kanban solutions for an entire value stream, any mistakes that you make will be felt far and wide throughout the inventory system. Consider all the affected suppliers and work-cells before taking this risk.
    • Since only certain items within each cell will be on kanban while others are still on MRP, there is a chance that any mistakes of one replenishment system will affect the shared resources of the other. Similar to deploying purchased items before manufactured items, there is a risk of putting undue strain on the suppliers.

Keep in mind, that there is nothing wrong with blending deployment strategies. Since any one product family can impact a massive number of parts and a significant number of work-cells, it’s really too big to roll out all at once. You can blend the value stream approach with the work-cell approach. Choose a product family to start on kanban, but only deploy a few work-cells at a time.

That does it for today’s article on prioritizing kanban deployment. In part 2 of this series we’ll take a closer look at the kanban deployment logic.

2019-05-20T09:35:57-04:00May 20th, 2019|Categories: Inventory Management, Lead Time Reduction, Lean Manufacturing, Supply Chain|

About the Author:

Aaron is the Marketing Director at Falcon Fastening Solutions, Inc. He is focused on sharing Falcon's unique approach to fastening and class C production component supply chain solutions with equipment manufacturers.

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