If there’s a buzzword for business that’s outlived all the other business buzzwords out there, it’s probably “efficiency.” Every company wants to be efficient. Efficiency allows for better communication and provides the best operating environment, leading to better project management and better cost management. Needless to say, efficiency is a MUST in every organization.
There are many ways to achieving efficiency. Tackling all of them in one article would be impossible. But here, let us focus on one tried and tested, unique, and VERY effective way of helping improve efficiency and effectivity – the Kanban system.
What is Kanban system, anyway?
While the use of the Kanban system has branched out into numerous applications all throughout various industries and organizations all around the world, the concept itself was started by Japanese automotive company Toyota in the 1960’s. It’s part of the “just-in-time” philosophy, which means making “only what is needed, when it is needed, and in the amount needed.” Toyota especially realized the need to make their operations as efficient as possible, as automobile manufacturing and assembly is a complicated and expensive process. The shorter the time to finish making a car with zero errors and as little waste as possible was essential.
Toyota borrowed the concept from grocery stores (another testament to the versatility of Kanban and how it can be utilized by every industry) which printed out product control cards that had all the pertinent information included on it. As such, Toyota included it in their own production process, and the rest is history.
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The benefits of using a Kanban system
The Kanban system for automobile production would be much more complicated, true, but it doesn’t always have to be that way. A Kanban can be as simple as a board with a To-Do, Doing, Done sections. But the key thing is that Kanban presents a simple way to organize tasks, manpower, work and workflow, making things much more efficient. Let’s look at the benefits of using Kanban:
1. It’s visual
Physical, digital, or otherwise, a Kanban system is visual. This helps people navigate through the process much easier, regardless of what they have on their plate. This is especially helpful in situations where multiple people or groups coordinate and cooperate on projects, allowing them to plot and plan their current and following tasks. Kanban’s visual nature also makes it easy to understand. It’s a perfect complement to all those email threads that you probably have floating around, and will be bound to make everyone wrap their heads around the process better.
An article from Entrepreneur, quoting data visualization expert Noah Iliinsky, sums it up perfectly: “Our visual system is extremely well built for visual analysis. There’s a huge amount of data coming into your brain through your eyes. Once that data arrives at the brain, it’s rapidly processed by sophisticated software that’s extremely good at tasks such as edge detection, shape recognition and pattern matching.”
2. It provides a more holistic view of the process
Another thing good about a Kanban system is that it gives everyone a more holistic view of a process in its entirety. As opposed to having people just work in a bubble, a Kanban system allows for everyone in the organization to have a better understanding and appreciation of what other people and teams are doing.
3. It’s simple
The idea and concept behind a Kanban system isn’t hard to understand. This is what makes it appealing to every department and every industry. The simplicity enables everyone to get on board and participate.
4. It gives people more access to information
The nature of a Kanban system as an inclusive process also enables people to have access to more information. It gives everyone more corporate knowledge, which is particularly useful for people who have little understanding of a complex system, like new employees.
5. Less waste, lean operations
Again, the nature of a Kanban system lends to there being less waste in operations. Redundant or unnecessary parts of a process can be removed, while other processes can be streamlined. Workflow can be simplified, without quality being compromised. This means better productivity — and a constant and consistent one at that.
6. Fosters better communication
Because the use of a Kanban system provides a more holistic view of the process, it encourages better cooperation and communication inside and across teams and departments. People will be able to adjust timelines and deadlines accordingly because they know what other people are doing. By extension, this also serves as a checks and balance medium where inefficiencies along the chain can be eliminated, and the person/s responsible can be held accountable, instead of the usual finger pointing that wastes even more time and damages rapport between employees and staff.
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7. Gives employees clearer goals
Since everyone will have a better idea of how things are done, a Kanban system enhances focus for everyone. Everyone will know what needs to be done, allowing them to prioritize better and wrap up any lose ends in other tasks. There’s also less confusion, and people can operate and deliver better since there’s more transparency.
Make, do, review, redo: Utilizing a Kanban system to maximize production and productivity
So, how does one apply Kanban? There really is no formula — while the base concept itself is simple, oftentimes there can be small tweaks and customizations that organizations can adopt to better fit in with their culture and the way they do things.
But the basics are straightforward. Make, do, review, redo.
Simply put, set up your Kanban system. You can begin from the base concept and see how things go along. A reminder though — pace yourself. Don’t try to bite off more than you can chew. Make your board. Talk to the people in your organization, and ease them into the mindset of using a Kanban system. Don’t just spring it on them. Using a Kanban system requires you to usher in a change of mindset. Explain why changes are being made and listen to everyone’s concerns.
This is the implementation phase. Launch it, and well, do what needs to be done. This is particularly where how much you want to do or change with the Kanban will come into play — taking on too much can be daunting for everyone.
Take a look at what’s been done so far. What can be changed? What needs to be added or removed? Again, take into consideration the inputs of the people who are involved in your Kanban system. In true Kanban style, work on eliminating the unnecessary elements in your system, as well as in your process itself.
“The biggest room in the world is the room for improvement.” It might be one of the most trite sayings in the world, but in a Kanban system, there’s always a push for constant improvement. Sometimes only minimal or no changes are needed. Sometimes a major overhaul is required. But take everything that’s been done so far and do things better.
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Adjustable and customizable
That’s the basics. But again, the good thing about a Kanban system is that it doesn’t have to be nailed down to a single way of doing things. It’s flexible, and can always be adjusted to fit the specific needs of a particular company or organization. What’s important is that productivity is made constant, tasks and goals are kept consistent, and the whole team is operates in sync with each other.
A great example of an innovative Kanban system is Runrun.it’s “Smart Kanban” system. It’s exactly the kind of tool that can be tweaked and customized depending on the organization. Called the RR-Board, this allows for greater flexibility for organizations to have a Kanban system that’s unique to them. The pioneering system enables complex workflows to be organized and prioritized properly. Part of what makes RR Board innovative is its ability to take into account the tasks of people working on different projects at the same time (let’s face it, it’s a fairly common occurrence). Not only does it help teams, it helps supervisors, managers and overseers, who want a better, more holistic view of how things are currently being done.
Another inventive thing about the RR-Board is its ability to set deadlines based on the current task assignments of an individual. That means goodbye to arbitrary and unreasonable timelines that just frustrate both employee and boss — not to mention the toll it is bound to take on the quality of the output. On top of that, this particular Kanban system recalculates deadlines if an individual is assigned or takes on additional tasks. It’s a very intuitive tool, to say the least. Last but not least of the good things about it is the crisp visual design that simply lends to the way the Kanban system was designed.
Runrun.it’s RR-Board Kanban system is available to the service’s trial users. If you’re interested to see how it can optimize, organize and improve your workflow and task management, sign up for a free trial here.