What is Kanban in production control?

Kanban: With method to an improved value chain

The internal logistics in a company, meaning all processes related to intralogistics, are elementary for the respective competitiveness. In view of global supply and goods flows, this topic is more important than ever, because the customer's demands are increasing at the same time. Optimizing material flows using Kanban promises greater flexibility and agility to deal with varying demand situations.

The method, whose name is derived from Japanese and can be translated as "card" or "receipt", is used for production process control.

What exactly is Kanban and what is it used for?

Let's take a classic, relatively rigid and centrally administered planning system. Production control here is designed so that any material requirements are specifically planned in advance. However, if a change in throughput now leads to a different material flow, which is also required decentrally, this limits the company immensely.

This is different with Kanban, a method based on the pull principle. In the context of "pulling production", the respective consumer can take the desired product directly from the supplier, who, after consumption of a previously defined kanban quantity, receives the order to produce it again.

In other words, a high level of stockpiling is required with traditional, outdated and centralized production control. This not only ties up capital, but is also associated with high storage costs and reduces a company's options for action in the event of "unforeseen" events.

The Kanban method is suitable for optimizing the procurement of relevant individual parts and making it practically possible "on demand". In practice, different Kanban systems can be differentiated, which we describe in more detail in the next paragraph.

Kanban systems in practice: The distinction between transport and procurement

Humans, as visual beings, can think their way into processes much more easily if they are coordinated and logically structured. For this reason, Kanban is not only used as a method of project management, in which work steps are visualized, but above all in logistics control. To better understand how Kanban works, let's focus on production control in an industrial company.

A Kanban system is designed to bypass stockpiling and only have materials available exactly where they are actually needed. To realize this, one uses so-called Kanban cards. They are the core of this method and aim to visualize all tasks - requested as well as finally processed tasks. They are now standard in digital form, for example as barcodes or RFID chips. Here you will find information regarding the project managers, deadlines, the task itself and the respective status. The basic idea behind this is to provide each person with real-time information about the current processing status of a task.

In the context of logistics and production control this means that Kanban can be used purposefully both in the handling of the transport and the procurement. The following illustration shows what is specifically meant by this.

Transport Kanban

Kanban signals, i.e. production orders in the broader sense, act as a link between suppliers and the production plant. This ensures that products, individual parts and co. get to exactly where they are needed, exactly according to plan.


Kanban is designed in such a way that upstream production sections communicate with each other by transmitting material requirements and making them available as needed.

Advantages of Kanban at a glance

Kanban aims to flexibly control warehouse space and provide resources exactly where they are ultimately needed. This is accompanied by process optimizations based on Kanban, which we would like to summarize below:

  • Optimal use of storage space through distribution precisely to the respective production site as required
  • Reduction of search times, since there is no stockpiling and only those elements are available that are relevant according to the Kanban system at this stage.
  • Compared to the push system, the pull system according to Kanban offers an increase in efficiency due to the elimination of unnecessary transports of goods.
  • Kanban racks enable production control in which logistics specialists can act without obstructing one another
  • Optimized material flow so that capacities are freed up and storage space can be reduced

In short: Kanban can be used in any way as an order or identification card to significantly improve production control processes.


Image: pluie_r / Shutterstock

Write to us!

You have questions? Then do not hesitate to contact us. We are gladly there for you.


proLogistik Holding GmbH Fallgatter 1 Germany - 44369 Dortmund +49 (0) 231 5194-0 +49 (0) 231 5194-4900 info@prologistik.com www.prologistik.com