Kanban cards evolved from their original use in manufacturing environments. They are now used for Agile software development, service tasks, and personal work tracking. In today’s dynamic world, the purpose of a Kanban card can vary, depending on the needs of a person or organization. Kanban cards and boards can be used in any form and are valuable visual tools that help to reduce waste and increase productivity.
Here is everything you need to know about the Kanban card, its origin, purpose, and benefits.
What is a Kanban Card?
Kanban card is a core component of the Kanban method that visualizes every process on the board. It serves as an informational center for the task’s progress.
A Kanban card can be used to represent a work item visually. It means “a visual (kan), card (ban)” in Japanese. It is an essential element of Kanban, the primary purpose of a Kanban card is to indicate work that has been requested and is in progress.
The Kanban card provides valuable information about the task, its status, and the responsible person. Kanban cards help you see the progress of your assignments from the time they are requested until they are completed.
Kanban cards are useful as:
- Information hubs
- Reducing the number of meetings
- Transparency in the work process is improved
An important aspect is that the number of Kanban cards in progress on the board should be limited. This will prevent context switching and productivity problems.
Origins of Kanban Card
Ohno (a Japanese industrial engineer) took a basic idea from Toyota’s manufacturing process. Imagine supermarket management. The supermarket management replenishes the shelves when they notice they’re running low.
In Toyota, they adapted the same supermarket’s stock management concept to help line workers acknowledge when certain parts need to be prepared and transported. The preceding process, who is in charge of the parts, supplies them to the next process when they need it with the exact amount of numbers.
To communicate flawlessly, they used visual signals in card forms to indicate their need for a component. This is where the Kanban card plays its role.
Kanban cards could also be attached to individual materials, so they weren’t ordered until needed. This helped the automotive manufacturer be more productive and managed.
Kanban cards help to:
- Streamline your inventory management
- Increase process efficiency
- Lower operating costs
The Kanban concept has been used in many industries since its birth at Toyota. Software developers used Kanban boards in the early days of computer engineering to streamline their work and reduce their workload. They used physical whiteboards and sticky notes to map how their work progressed.
The Purpose of a Kanban Card
Kanban cards aim to make it easy to keep track of lead time. It refers to the time it takes for a product to go from start to finish. It also facilitates quality control and designs workplaces that respect human dignity. This allows workers to reach their full potential.
Companies in the automotive industry and business and service have adopted and continue to evolve the ‘Toyota Way’ (or Kanban) and are continuing to improve.
Kanban cards work with the Kanban board to help teams identify bottlenecks in their workflow process and help streamline their work. Teams can decrease their lead time, which means getting work done quickly without errors.
The purpose of a Kanban card includes:
- Tracking essential details quickly. Each Kanban card usually includes a short description of the work item along with its owner, due dates, and status. Other information such as pointers to documentation or a list highlighting issues preventing the item from progress can be included on the card.
- Ensuring smooth and efficient delivery. Kanban cards help teams establish clear expectations for each functional area. When the time comes to pass a work item from one state to the next, from planning to implementation, these explicit policies clarify who takes ownership and the next steps.
Benefits of Kanban Cards
Kanban cards make it easy to stay organized and are also fun to use. It’s a satisfying feeling to be able to track your progress tangibly and clearly. Apart from identifying the purpose of a Kanban card, here are some of the benefits of using Kanban cards in helping you organize your individual and organizational goals:
1. Gives better visibility
Visualization is a vital Kanban practice, and the Kanban board is the most well-known feature of the Kanban method. The Kanban board utilizes cards to allow everyone to see the progress of tasks. Its visual layout makes it easy to spot bottlenecks as they form.
2. Improves efficiency
Visualizing your process will quickly highlight inefficiencies. The Kanban board clearly shows bottlenecks, stalled projects, and work in progress. Every obstacle that you remove makes your process more smooth and efficient.
3. Increases productivity
Increased efficiency leads naturally to the next Kanban benefit: increased productivity. Kanban increases productivity by shifting your focus from the beginning to the end of work.
4. Prevents the team from being overburdened
Traditional management techniques rely on planning and putting the workload onto your team. Teams find themselves overwhelmed by too much work. Kanban suggests implementing a pull system – the team only takes the work into the workflow only if they have the energy & capacity to do so.
5. Helps reduce waste
Taiichi Ohno “the Lean management forefather, introduced a way to eliminate waste in a manufacturing industry related to time, effort, and materials. Kanban greatly benefits from waste elimination by reducing waiting times – idle tasks, queuing states, and other things are their prime targets.
6. Enhances flexibility
Your business processes must be flexible in a market that is constantly changing. It is equally important to respond quickly to market changes as it is to respond to demand. Kanban allows you to have a flexible approach and build a competitive advantage that lasts.
7. Improves collaboration
Kanban encourages collaboration and benefits your team. From deciding the priorities of the day to setting the direction of the business in Strategic Reviews, all team members are encouraged to work with each other and submit their opinion on what needs to be improved in current processes.
8. Gives more predictability
Product managers are often asked the most crucial question: When will you be ready? Implementing WIP limits and ensuring the Little’s Law assumptions are met keeps your process operating as a stable system. The rate at which tasks are being pulled in should roughly match the rate at which tasks are leaving. Stable systems are predictable and can be used to make data-driven decisions.
9. Facilitates on-time delivery
Kanban cards were created to track inventory levels and prevent material from building up. Kanban cards are still used in the manufacturing industry, but this “just-in-time” method is also helpful in other industries, such as software development. It is better to allow software features to accumulate in one stage than let parts of automobiles pile up on the ground.
10. Increases team focus
WIP limits prevent new tasks from being added to a process before another task is completed. Kanban allows team members to focus on one task at a time rather than being distracted by multiple tasks.
11. Improves collaboration
A strong collaboration among team members, managers and stakeholders leads to better morale and inclusive company culture. Every person’s opinion matters and is valuable. Team members are encouraged to be independent and take the initiative, which allows them to express their creativity and talents.
Make Kanban Cards Work for You
Kanban cards are helpful for any industry. They can help you organize your work and make it easier to get the job done. By learning about the purpose of a Kanban card, you can better decide if it is a tool that you can use to help you meet your goals as an individual or as a part of your organization. Want to know how Kanban cards and the Kanban methodology can empower you and your team? Try out Kanban Zone today.