The KANBAN Process- More than Inventory Control?

In contexts where supply time is lengthy and demand is difficult to forecast, the best one can do is to respond quickly to observed demand. This is exactly what a Kanban (Just in Time) system can help: it is used as a demand signal which immediately propagates through the supply chain. This can be used to ensure that intermediate stocks held in the supply chain are better managed, usually smaller.

Kanban is a concept which attempts to maintain minimum inventory. The Kanban process involves more than fine tuning production control and supplier scheduling systems, where inventories are minimized by supplying these when needed in production, and work in progress in closely monitored. The essence of the Kanban concept is that a supplier or the warehouse should only deliver components to the production line as and when they are needed, so that there is no storage in the production area.

In order to be effective, Kanban must follow strict rules of use and that close monitoring of these rules is a never-ending problem to ensure that Kanban does what is required.

To make the monitoring process simpler, many manufacturers implemented electronic Kanban (or e-Kanban) systems. In doing so they found that they had eliminated common manual entry errors, provided quick and precise information, could respond quicker to changes, avoided overproduction, minimised waste, and maintained low costs associated with information transfer.

Traditionally Kanban systems have been used by manufacturers to control the amount of stock held on the production line. The manufacturing process became “slicker and quicker” due to the part or stock only being delivered to the line as it was needed. In this case the warehouse was the supplier.

Use of the Kanban system in the warehouse for just in time replenishment of pick bins makes perfect sense. Taking the manufacturing/production process JIT (Just in Time) principle one step further to encompass warehouse replenishment processes means the same benefits are reaped by the warehouse as they are in manufacturing. The warehouse does not overstock goods; suppliers have an instantaneous picture of stock levels held, the process moves from one of stocking goods to one of perpetual inventory. Visibility of stock movements is available to management, operators and suppliers alike.

The aim of taking Kanban principles into the warehouse is to make the processes as lean and as “green” as possible. Stock is only being delivered to the warehouse when absolutely necessary.

Integrating E-Kanban systems into Warehouse Management systems allows for real-time demand signaling across the supply chain and improved visibility. Data pulled from E-Kanban systems can be used to optimise inventory levels by better tracking supplier lead and replenishment times.

Within the PROTEUS Warehouse Management System, the Replenishment of Pick Bins can be set at any level, or when the bin is expected to or goes empty, based upon pick tasks released but not yet completed. In these instances Replenishment Tasks will be created.

They can be set at a priority level above all other tasks. Furthermore, any pick tasks that are subsequently generated for the same stock, will be categorised as ‘dependent tasks’ and an operative will not be instructed to pick that stock until the replenishment tasks have been completed. All of which will be clearly visible on the PROTEUS Task Manager Screen. The PROTEUS Action Manager functionality can be set to defined business parameters to trigger actions and events. Proteus Smart Alerts can be set to send SMS Messages on defined events occurring.

The PROTEUS Warehouse Management System is a Predictive Kanban solution, and actions can be triggered to alert Warehouse operators and management when a pick bin or pick face is nearing empty, and will shortly need replenishing.

For further information on Proteus Software Warehouse Management Systems, and Proteus Predictive Kanban please contact Linda Rodway on 0121 717 7474 or email me

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