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Kanban Card (+Form)

kanban card is small card containing information about how to replenish a specific part used in production. It is a signal that tells someone upstream to move, purchase, or build more of a component for production.

Kanban Card Example Overview

Click the image to see how kanban cards work.

kanban card must contain the number of units (items, pounds, kits, etc.) that need action. It also likely contains a variety of other information that clearly conveys what must be done.

A kanban card often has a place to write the date it was turned in, or ‘dropped’, and when it is due. The second date is calculated by adding the lead time to the turn-in date.

(See our kanban term for a more detailed explanation about the system in general. This entry focuses on the cards themselves.)

Kanban Card Sample From Whaddaya Mean I Gotta Be Lean?

Click on this sample kanban card to download the tool used to generate it.


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While the specific information contained on a kanban card can vary, most will contain at least some of the following information:

  • Part description
  • Part/Item number
  • An identifying bar code
  • The quantity of parts to be moved/produced/ordered
  • Routing information / upstream or downstream processes
  • Location information
  • Lead time
  • Supplier
  • The responsible person, usually a planner
  • The order date
  • The due date
  • Type of container
  • Number of containers (i.e. card 2 of 4)

kanban card is often fixed to a container, effectively turning the bin or cart itslef into a kanban. In other cases, a kanban card is simply laminated and temporarily attached to shelves of bins with hook and pile fasteners.

kanban card is an integral part of a kanban system to manage inventory. As such, a kanban card should be treated like a controlled item—losing one can shut down a production line.

Kanban cards should be managed by a documented process. For example, the process should clarify where to ‘drop’ the cards, whether to drop them when the first item is drawn or when the bin is empty, and what to do with the cards once an order is placed.

There are a variety of formulas used to determine the quantity shown on a kanban card. In a nutshell, the math is designed to make sure that…

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  • A lost card can cause a shortage. Treat them like a controlled item.
  • Don’t game the system. If extra parts are being stashed, it is an indication that the kanban cards are not showing the correct quantity.
  • Keep the cards updated. Outdated cards can lead to stock outs.
  • Kanban cards do not reduce inventory. They manage it.
  • Kanban cards need stable environments to…

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Kanban cards will make your life easier, even though there is something new to deal with in your job. Because they are right where the parts are, they make problems highly apparent. Computerized material management systems are only as good as the information reported to them. Having the cards right at the point of use highlights issues. This, however, means that you have to…

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Kanban systems are effective, but they are not easy. You’ll have to spend the time to create a process to manage your kanban cards. You’ll have to designate an area to produce the cards to meet the continuous need for new ones. You’ll need to…

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  • Kanban cards don’t reduce inventory. They manage it.
  • Kanban cards signal to move/withdrawal, produce, or order items.
  • If a kanban card is lost, you’ll end up with a parts shortage. Treat them like gold.

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