Have you implemented kanban yet? Have you been unable to roll it out—or are you struggling to maintain it? Most companies who begin kanban implementation struggle to finish the job. Often, chaos still reigns and improvements in customer service and lead times remain elusive.
In too many cases, the following questions not only go without answers, they go without asking:
- How do we size and resize supermarkets to reflect process and demand changes?
- How do we kanban hundreds, or even thousands, of parts?
- How do we schedule a level load and mix with batch production?
- How do we account for make-to-order requirements?
- How do we use our pull system to focus process improvements?
Failure to address these areas reflect two major problems. First is that kanban quantities may not account for major supply and demand constraints. Second is the assumption that kanban systems must be manual to be visual.
Most pull/kanban implementations occur via traditional “kaizen” events. This is a drill many local companies have practiced: A team is structured and trained, and kanbans are made and implemented on a few items in a few days. Almost always, this approach loses steam because the struggle to apply it over and over again to additional products is difficult and costly.
On hundreds of implementations, manufacturers have overcome these stumbling blocks with “Virtual Pull” systems. Virtual Pull views “pull” as a true system, not as a series of kaizen events. The nature of an effective pull system is that it connects value streams and loops them with one another. Virtual Pull provides visual control of material flow, from anywhere on your network, without the need for physical kanban cards, containers, boards, etc.
What is unique about Virtual Pull is that it enables you to:
- Quantify inventories based on constraints in supply and demand
- Calculate, by item, the maximum inventory required to maintain material flow
- Eliminate non-value-adding kanban cards, containers and boards
- Provide visual schedules accessible anywhere on your network
- Incorporate mixed-model level-loading (heijunka) into the scheduling process
- Incorporate non-kanban demand into level-loaded visual schedules
- Reduce non-value-added scheduling and expediting effort by up to 90 percent.
Using available data from your planning and scheduling system (shipment patterns, demand rates, labor efficiency, etc.), you can build an impressive business-wide pull system. Companies are realizing reductions in total enterprise inventories of 20 to 40 percent, improvements in service levels to all customers to over 99 percent, and 70 to 90 percent reductions in scheduling workload across the organization.
Virtual Pull is not a proprietary software system; it is developed using simple tools such as Microsoft Excel and Access. The data is maintained in your current system, not on cumbersome kanban cards. Plus, it interfaces with your existing systems so as changes are made to your data, the supermarkets are reset automatically. Virtual Pull is being used to size supermarkets and level schedules in a variety of environments, including offshore procurement, consumer products distribution and daily production scheduling. Using visual scheduling signals on both make-to-stock and make-to-order requirements is cutting costs and dramatically improving delivery performance. For more information on inventory management strategies, call IMEC at 888-806-4632. iBi