Kanban tools first propelled Japanese car companies to world prominence, enabling them to create high-quality designs and manufacturing processes while minimizing costs. Kanban tools are so versatile that they are commonly used by software development companies today, whether supporting agile product development or efficient service delivery. While they are necessary to communicate complex project status information, Kanban tools have other uses, too. Let’s learn how they can boost your business’s productivity.
They Allow You to Implement Just-in-Time Systems
One of the benefits of a simple, agile project management system is that you can set up real just-in-time systems. Don’t waste time and resources making products that you hope to sell. Only make what customers need when they request it. Use Kanban tools to deliver a final product as quickly as possible while remaining high quality.
Kanban’s more traditional use is to flag when inventory needs to be restocked just soon enough to meet demand. You will replenish inventory at workstations or stores just as required, but there will never be a wasteful surplus. When someone pulls the limited inventory of a part to meet their needs, your supply chain knows to order more before things run out. You do not sink money into parts you hope to use, and you do not waste time ordering items you don’t need.
Another side benefit of Kanban tools is that they minimize work-in-progress. That is always a waste until you have time to finish the product and ship it unless you disassemble it and put the parts back in storage.
You Have the Information You Need to Improve Your Processes
We often look at ways to increase the efficiency of each machine on a manufacturing line or each step in a set process. Kanban tools allow you to visualize your real workflow, the way you do business, whether it is delivering a service or making a product. Furthermore, everyone can see what the process is.
It is the transparency of the Kanban system that makes it so efficient at improving processes. Everyone can see bottlenecks as they occur, and everyone can work on a solution. They can give advice on how to eliminate or consolidate steps. As a result, you could end up with a much shorter workflow. When you eliminate unneeded steps, your entire process becomes more efficient.
Once you have a new formal process, the Kanban chart helps maintain the newly approved workflow. Everyone knows what the new process is. And the entire team can still give suggestions on how to improve it. This is the essence of “kaizen” or continuous improvement, which is one of the principles at the core of Kanban and something your business should strive for.
You Can Manage the Metrics that Matter
Another advantage of Kanban tools is that it makes it easier to track metrics related to your process. You can watch the cycle time for each critical step in your process. When it is increasing, you know to investigate the problem before it becomes critical.
However, not everyone works in the same department and can check in on the Kanban board everyone else works from. For large offices and distributed teams, Kanban tools are essential to give everyone a shared visual management system. Kanban tools like Kanbanize, for instance, allow remote team members to check on the status of team metrics or report completed tasks. They also have built-in reporting tools that let you run reports and forecast future performance based on your historical data.
The best Kanban tools for your organization provide the same metrics, real-time reporting and visual reports that the traditional Kanban board does. In every case, the Kanban system allows everyone to know which metrics they should work to improve and how the team is performing relative to those goals. This increases the odds the entire organization meets the goals set for it, whether this is profitability, sales quotas or production goals.
Improvement in Communications
A Kanban system can give management a visual indicator of the state of operations. You don’t waste time asking for status reports or constantly checking in on people unless there are pressing issues that need to be addressed.
However, a Kanban system only works when everyone knows how it functions. Define WIP or work in progress limits and make that visible on the Kanban board. Also, make sure that everyone understands how the system works. Have expectations regarding how issues are addressed, such as who has the responsibility to deal with it as soon as it is identified. Your business will be able to quickly determine who needs to solve the problem once it is known, and everyone else will know when it is fixed when the chart is updated. You don’t waste time on status meetings or people researching solutions for problems others have already solved.
When you are using Kanban applications, you don’t have to send messages to your remote workers asking what they’re working on. You will be able to see progress on their tasks and know when they are free to work on something else.
This is why Kanban tools are a great way to maintain an agile work environment. They give workers more autonomy and allows administrators the chance to see the whole process in real-time and see who’s in charge of each step along the way. When used in conjunction with other communication tools, remote work becomes seamless and issues can be addressed and corrected in real time much faster. Other workers can also chip in and offer their help if they are left idle, which makes collaborative work even easier.
Kanban has long been used to minimize inventory levels and other forms of waste. However, Kanban can also be used to improve the productivity of the organization. Make sure that you look at the pros and limitations of Kanban as well as a few tools to see if they would be the right fit for your operation.