Kanban is a visual way to manage tasks and workflows, which utilizes a kanban board with columns and cards. The cards represent tasks, and the columns organize those tasks by their progress or current stage in development.
The History of Kanban
Kanban was developed in Japan in the late 1940s by the Toyota car company. It was originally developed by the Japanese industrial engineer, Taiichi Ohno. They looked into other stocking systems, such as those used by supermarkets, and applied them to their factory floor. For example, in a supermarket, customers shop for what they need and not as often just to stock up on supplies. Therefore, the supermarket stocks what it expects to sell.
This made Toyota develop a process in which the production cycle was thought of as a customer in need of immediate supplies. In other words, the factory stocks the inventory at levels that meet the actual consumption.
Toyota tracked consumption through a replenishment cycle, which made the chain from supplier to consumer visible. The rate of demand controls the rate of production. By 1953, Toyota was using kanban for workflow in its main plant machine shop.
Kanban eventually moved from the factory floor in Japan to being a global tool in lean manufacturing systems and agile approaches to project management. By the 2000, it was established as a tool to visualize work, limit work in progress, focus on flow and practice continuous improvements.