‘KANBAN’, the way forward for lean lab management!
KANBAN is a Japanese word which translates to signboard/billboard
KANBAN methodology originated from the Toyota production system (TPS) in the late 1940s. The goal was to create more value for the customer without a steady increase in cost.
What is KANBAN?
Kanban is a visual method used to organise, prioritise and manage work across different systems. KANBAN methodology aims to organise work by harmonizing demands with capacity, and by refining bottlenecks in the system.
The key element of this method is a KANBAN board which gives the participants an end to end view of the system, process and progress in real-time. Unlike the conventional process management methods, KANBAN encourages PULL than PUSH i.e. the participants in the process voluntarily pull their tasks as and when capacity permits rather than a central authority pushing it to them.
Following are the four core KANBAN principles
1.Visualizing the process – ‘ Kanban Board’
Visualising the entire process flow is key to the success of KANBAN and this involves creating a board which divides the entire process into smaller steps each indicated by a colour card.
E.g.: The KANBAN board in Metquay calibration management solution has cards such as Not Started, In Progress, Report Generated, Report Approved and Finished. The information displayed in the cards clearly indicates the process/task and the person involved.
2.Limiting the work in progress
The KANBAN system sets specific limits for work in progress i.e. there would always be a threshold to the maximum amount of work that could be processed at a given time period. This ensures JIT ( just in time) completion of work and prevents the build-up of backlogs.
Let’s take the example of a typical commercial calibration lab. The end to end process involves tasks viz equipment receipt, work assignment, data capture, report preparation, review, approval and despatch. Stalling of one or more jobs at any of these stages would result in piling up of backlogs and overall delivery inefficiency.
Metquay’s integrated KANBAN allows the jobs which are stalling to be moved into an on-hold stage. The capacity thus released could be allocated to jobs which are on waiting list to ensure just in time delivery.
3.Focus on workflow
A consistent flow of work is crucial to faster and reliable delivery. Kanban systems optimise the time taken for a task right from planning to completion. Key performance indicators defined for each stage helps identify bottlenecks and make improvements.
KANBAN views in Metquay, logs the time taken for each job to progress the individual stages. The analysis of data thus collected could unlock a lot of information which could be used for process improvement.
4.Process transparency ,collaboration & continuous improvement
KANBAN system ensures process transparency. There will be a clearly defined set of rules for a task to progress from one stage to another with intermediate review stages to ensure quality. Kanban methodology gives prime importance to general consensus and collaboration which makes change adoption and process improvement easy and efficient.
KANBAN dashboard in Metquay enables collaboration between different teams involved in various stages of the work. The visual cues in the KANBAN board enable information exchange on real-time which eliminates miscommunications and contributes to a harmonious work environment.
Image source: Getty Images