Kanban at Home

As you may already know, Kanban cards are used to indicate the need to replenish inventory.  They are a good tool to help minimize batch sizes and inventory.

Here is an example of using Kanban at home.  Hopefully most readers will be able to relate to examples on the home-front.  In this example a child is taking nutritional supplements and they rely on Mom or Dad to purchase these pills.  The process follows:

  1. Modular Pill Organizer

    Modular Pill Organizer (Photo credit: tr0tt3r)

    Nutritional supplements are taken from the original packaging and placed in a weekly organizer.  This is done on Saturday after taking the last supplement and the organizer is empty.

  2. Once the organizer is filled with the needed number of supplements for each day, the consumer (receiving process) performs an inventory of each of the supplements to ensure that there are enough to fill the organizer at least one more time.
  3. Kanban-Board vorher

    Kanban-Board (Photo credit: blambarde)

    When the supply of a supplement is below the standard (i.e. there is not enough to fill the organizer one more time), a Kanban card is placed on the Kanban board near the family computer.

  4. The weekly organizer is then placed by the bathroom sink (point of use).   The bottles are placed under the sink since they are only needed once per week.
  5. Supplements are placed on order electronically (internet).  No communication is required if there is adequate inventory.
  6. Supplements arrive in the mail.  The Kanban card is attached to the supplements and placed in inventory under the sink.

Kanban is not the ultimate goal for a Lean process.  The ultimate goal would be to eliminate  the inventory completely and to achieve single-piece flow (batches of 1).  In this case, the ideal state from an inventory perspective would be to have the supplements delivered daily.  Since daily delivery of supplements to a private residence isn’t practical, Kanban cards can be used to keep the inventory to a minimum.  Without a system, you would find yourself ordering too soon or running out.

Do you have any ideas on how to improve this process?  Do you have an example of Kanban at home or work?  Better yet, do you have an example of eliminating the need for inventory even at one process step?


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About Christian Paulsen

Christian Paulsen is an Executive Consultant with 20 years of Lean Manufacturing. Chris adds value to organizations by driving process improvement and bottom line savings. Chris intends to help others by sharing the lessons learned after a quarter century of operational leadership, marriage, parenting, and even longer as a Cubs fan. Your comments on this blog are welcome. You can also connect with Chris via LinnkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook in the right sidebar. Chris welcomes your comments. Christian's professional services are available by contacting him through LinkedIn (right side bar)
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4 Responses to Kanban at Home

  1. philean says:

    I think that many examples exist in our daily life. When I saw a 2 bin system for the first time, I immediately recognized the system my mother had to control inventories and to plan shopping when I was a child. Her rules were to set minimum levels for the specific items currently used at home (like soap, shampoo, bread, butter, milk, sugar, etc.) Usually, the minimum level was 1 unit (1 kg., 1 piece, 1 bag, etc.). And her rule was that a new unit was to be shopped only when the existing one had already entered into use, meaning that it was never allowed to have two similar units waiting to be consumed. In this way, she controlled the costs, the space used for inventories, and she never had to think at the order in which the products had to be consumed, nor she had to throw away anything unused during the validity period.

    • It sounds like your mother had a good system and was disciplined in following the system. It’s interesting how often we can see good common sense systems at home. Thanks for your comments.

  2. gwkessler says:

    In today´s world, just take a picture of the relevant product which was just opened or is at half way to run out and download to your shopping list

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