Supermarket Kanban explained in just over a minute.

Today our Lean initiatives are based on Toyota and Japanese principles. But Taiichi Ohno originally learned from American supermarkets. He was impressed with how supermarkets were able to keep stock on the shelf without holding tremendous amounts of inventory. Today this is expected and hardly impressive. In fact, I get upset if I go to the store and what I want isn't in stock.

Customers pull the product from the shelves and the store replenishes it. A basic kanban system at work. If we can use kanban in our grocery stores, why don't we use it in our factories?

This short and sweet video explains how a supermarket kanban system works. A supermarket in a manufacturing plant is a part storage area located between two operations. The downstream operation draws parts from the supermarket, and the upstream operation supplies parts to replenish the supermarket.

The video covers two kanban signaling scenarios: 

The first is when the upstream process is within sight of the supermarket and and simply replenishes it when the parts disappear. An empty space is a signal to produce that part.

In the second scenario, the use of a supply kanban card signals the upstream process. When parts are taken, the supply kanban card is sent to the previous operation, triggering it to make parts.

Two simple kanban signals used to fill a supermarket. Explained in less than a minute and a half. Enjoy!

This video has been added to my continuously growing list of Lean videos.


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