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The Japanese have developed an effective scheduling system that, among other functions, can increase productivity and minimize waste in a manufacturing environment. The Kanban system of manufacturing has helped many factories operate more efficiently. In many production industries, Kanban cards and boards are valuable tools.

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What are Kanban cards?

Taiichi Ohno, the father of the Toyota Production System, conceived of the Kanban Cards system. The purpose of this system is to manage the flow of parts in JIT production lines.

The term Kanban comes from “kan” and “ban”, which mean “visual” and “card,” respectively. The kanban system roughly translates to “the card you can see,” a visual reminder of the available inventory of parts. The template for Kanban cards was developed by Taiichi Ohno after he witnessed grocery store shelves that only contained enough stock to meet expected demand.

As for the store’s inventory, it was only restocked if there were empty spaces on the shelves. Ohno’s observations led to the creation of visual markers that could lessen unnecessary inventories. The Kanban system also helps companies discover and resolve process issues. The visual markers—the Kanban cards—are still used today.

The origin of Kanban cards

Kanban sheets and cards support a visual system that clearly defines the status of work. This allows teams in a company to develop well-coordinated communication regarding what work they need to do and when. As Kanban developed into a knowledge work system, the cards came to represent separate work items.

There is no need for complex processes or bureaucracy to use Kanban cards and Kanban sheets. A team is more effective if its members display the “pieces of work” on a whiteboard with lanes to highlight the steps of a process.

Each piece of work in this collection should contain these simple notes. The placement of the notes on the whiteboard visually defines the status of the work item within its process. From this simple card routine, the modern use of visual management boards became established.

The effectiveness of Kanban cards

In creating Kanban cards, Ohno took into consideration psychological and emotional aspects of change. Ohno defined a set of guardrails to clarify what’s required to make the system effective and empower those who contribute to it.

These guardrails have proven to be highly effective and are now part of the general practice. The principles in this chapter describe how to become successful in managing for efficiency:

Start with the information at your command

The kanban system is used to assess existing processes and so you don’t need to make any changes immediately.

Agree to follow progressive

The Kanban method supports ongoing changes to a system. But changes should be made gradually and in small increments. It is difficult to implement drastic, wide-range or radical changes in an organization without meeting resistance.

Respect the current roles and responsibilities of others

The Kanban method of workplace organization allows for changes to the system, recognizing and respecting that the existing state of organization has value. Incremental change can help create broader implementation support by introducing small corrections that are more acceptable than a complete overhaul.

Leadership must be exerted on all levels

The Kanban method supports Kaizen, a Japanese business philosophy that encourages continual improvements in working practices, personal efficiency, and so on. The company believes that anyone in the team can be a source of great ideas, not just management.

Kanban Card Sheet

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What should you include on your Kanban cards?

Kanban cards are visual devices designed to display the progress of work items moving through a system or a process. To understand this better, it is important to know the most important characteristics of a Kanban card template. The following details will assist you as you create your own Kanban Excel template:


◉ A unique title or identifier can make all the difference.
◉ A short description of the work.
◉ An estimate of the work’s size is available upon request.
◉ The person assigned to the work

The contents of this section should fit on the front of a Kanban card.


◉ Start date
◉ Blocked location and days
◉ Lead time
◉ Finish date

The card ultimately provides a significant amount of information about the overall workflow. The card can help you understand the system workflow and identify potential problems before they can have a significant impact on the system.

The information on the card enables you to make continual improvements. Recording metrics helps the team discover the value of the Kanban system.

The following are general practices when using Kanban cards

To achieve maximum results using Kanban, there are some practices that describe what you should do:

Try visualizing the workflow

Kanban cards work effectively if you can visualize the flow of work in your company. If you can visualize the number of requests you receive, the time it takes to deliver on each request, who makes each risk and request, then you may take the appropriate management steps as an individual and a team.

You can place cards and sticks on a Kanban board so that your team remains on the existing workflow.

Limit work in progress

This is a cornerstone of the Kanban system. Limiting the work-in-progress helps to focus your team’s attention on individual tasks. This also illustrates the point that work can become obstructed before a situation reaches a critical stage.

Manage the flow

A kanban system can help you visually track tasks and manage the flow of work to deliver maximum value. You will be able to accomplish this based on the data you have collected on cycle time and other metrics that you agreed upon. Use the information regarding the recent state of work to your advantage.

Make explicit policies

Teams determine the workflow for their items by creating rules about them and deciding when to move them to the next lane. The teams also make plans on how to handle blocked tasks or work. Mark all of these items near the board for the team to work on.

Apply feedback loops

On a daily basis, team members meet with the Kanban Board to discuss ways to improve the delivery of tasks and the overall process. The team also determines where they can eliminate waste.

Work together to improve

The Kanban system of communication pinpoints problem areas in a process and can be used to improve a process. Work groups determine strategies for solving problems, make hypotheses, and test their solutions.

Kanban Card Templates In Excel

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Sample physical and virtual Kanban card templates

There are two ways to make a Kanban card template: using the physical Kanban Excel template or using a digital version. A growing number of people prefer to use a virtual Kanban card template because of the features it offers. But one can serve the same purpose as the other.

Kanban Card templates

Making a Kanban card template can help reduce oversights in the work environment. But usually, team members already have a consistent and clear understanding of their jobs. Even when the nature of a project changes, the team members can find ways to optimize the project’s development processes.

But the Kanban card template, as discussed earlier, makes capturing and communicating this learning easy. You can standardize repetitive work by using Kanban sheets or card templates. This improves the process by which resources are saved and time is used more efficiently.

Digital Kanban Card Template (Excel)

This type of template allows all remote and onsite team members to access documents equally. Data collected by the automatic feed is implemented into charts and graphs for faster results. It also keeps a record of the entire life of the card.


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