María Alcaraz

Kanban Method for task optimization

The Kanban method will help you make the most of the time to devote to your team’s tasks, as well as increase their quality.

Optimizing the production processes in a company

Especially when we are members of a team, is a goal we all try to reach in our businesses.

Only a certain amount of time is available, and this can’t be changed.

This is why we always hope each minute will be as productive as possible, avoiding work leaks, increasing the level of quality as much as possible without this involving more resources, and getting rid of bottlenecks anywhere in the task chain so that the rest of the team may continue working.

Getting rid of the so-called bottlenecks in a team is something everyone wishes to achieve.

How can this be done?

That’s the million dollar question.

Nowadays, several well-developed management models and process optimization models are available to help us manage the day-to-day tasks of our teams.

We may monitor what they are doing, how they are doing, the production level that is being reached, what the existing needs are and, of course, measure the task quality as well, so that the product or service is perfect at every stage. In this area, we will now analyze and find out more about the Kanban Method (with a K and a B, not a C and a V as in the business development model Canvas).

What is the Kanban method?

This is, without doubt, the method that may change the production system in your business.

This may help you achieve the following goals: optimize your time and management, increase productivity and achieve a high level of quality and efficiency.

Nevertheless, you should keep in mind that in order to achieve such goals you need to apply the system and hold on to it (we are warning you about that because many businesses initiate several management and optimization systems but never achieve positive results, either because they are not applying them in the right manner or else because they are not doing a proper follow-up).

The Kanban method itself is a system for the organization of production that will enable you to optimize your team’s processes and tasks, as well as achieve a very high level of quality in each project phase. You will avoid bottlenecks (as mentioned above) or obstructions in production.

Every task will need to be finished before a new one may be undertaken, which will involve the whole chain applying its section in the allotted time to avoid undesired consequences on others. These will allow you to leave organizational chaos behind.

Above all, the best achievement of this method is task quality, as no task will be moved on to the following stage unless it has been satisfactorily completed.

In short, the Kanban method improves every business process by making optimization in the different business activities easier.

To do so, it uses techniques that were derived from engineering, some of which are as relevant as the organization of the work area or multiprocess management, among others.

Where does the Kanban method come from?

Kanbas is a Japanese word that means “panel” or “poster”.

This is something all companies should work with, as posterd are not only an asset, but also help us get an overview of the whole production process at a glance.

The word and all it means was used for the first time in the Japanese factory Toyota.

David J. Anderson, the creator of the method, introduced a new organization system in this factory that focused on the need to improve processes as much as possible, thus increasing their quality and the quality of the products manufactured there.  

How to put the method to work?

What you are doing right now is what matters most for starters

The method’s success lies in it being a system to optimize production (it is not intended to tell you how to do what you do). Introduce the tasks you and your team are doing, how you are doing them and the system will tell you whether you are performing them correctly or else there is something you should change.

Change is the best that could happen to you

Don’t cling to the old-fashioned saying that states “if it works, don’t change it”; that’s simply not true.

Even if it works, there’s always a better way to do it, so keep open to change and improve your processes with any required changes.

Respect what already exists as well as others

Every person involved knows what he/she is expected to do, so he/she respects everybody else’s tasks and responsibilities. This is essential for a process to be successful.

Forget about “we all do everything” (a hit in Spanish companies) and focus on what you should do. Let the others do whatever they need to do.

Self-drive and management

These are key words for this method to be a success. Manage your tasks optimally and lead the way towards completing them as well as possible.

Always keep workflow in mind, never lose your focus on it.

Think of the panels or posters that describe and specify the whole process and monitor advances.

Who’s doing what, how, when and what you should be doing. You need to keep all this always in mind in order to be able to follow your way.

Start a task and finish it before you start the following one

This is essential for the system to work properly.

Process improvement

Everything could always be improved and optimized. So don’t hesitate to do it with your method as well: introduce any improvements that help everything work even better. Every team is different, and personal aspects also play a role.

Always visualize the process, keep it in mind and check for everything that may be changed.

Is this useful for all companies?

The method was originally devised and created for industrial production processes, as well as for those that involve stocks or inventories.

Later on, Microsoft introduced it to the software area, but it may actually be set up and applied by any company with a team or even by a single person.

The key to success is founded on doing it well and adapting it to everybody’s needs, to the product or service and to the process itself.

The better the process rules are defined, the more successful the method will be (which makes it great for mechanical environments) but if you properly identify every person’s role, what they should do, how and when, and you clearly establish quantifiable tasks for everything, the method will be successful as long as you monitor it closely.

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