We’ve been talking about Kanban lately, and specifically, different Kanban approaches to inventory management. Kanban is a simple system that came about in the 1950s in Toyota’s manufacturing process. Simply put, it roughly translates to “signal card” and it’s a way of notifying the individual responsible for replenishing an item that it’s time to replenish. Today, it’s being used in industries and organizations around the globe to improve lean processes – including inventory management processes.
If you’re not using a Kanban approach to manage inventory in your organization, you’re missing out on some pretty significant benefits, including:
- Lower overhead costs
- Standardized reordering amounts
- Increased efficiencies (for both nurses and supply techs)
- Reduction of obsolete inventory
- More control over supplies
- Improved responsiveness to changes in demand
- Improved reporting
- Increased teamwork among supply chain and nursing staff
- Reduction of inventory, up to 75% for some items / in some areas
But the real benefit of using a Kanban approach is that Kanban aligns inventory levels with actual consumption. It's widely believed in lean circles that demand-driven systems lead to faster turnarounds in production (for manufacturing environments) and lower inventory levels.
If you're starting to think about how to reinvent your inventory management processes, there's a wide array of Kanban systems that can be considered:
- Kanban cards
- Divided baskets
- Left to right
- Front to back
- 'Fit to Space' systems
- ‘Flipper’ dividers in metal baskets
- Two colored reversible bins (blue/orange, black/red)
- 3 Bin (One in front of the other) empty bin returned to supplier
- 2 Bin (One in front of the other – neither ever leave the location)
- Watermarks (accommodates items too large to fit in bins)
If you want to learn more about 2Bin, here's a quick 2Bin video that you can check out (it's about 3 minutes).
Working with hospitals, we've seen that implementing a Kanban approach is a great way to quickly improve supply management processes and reduce inventory-related problems. If you’re thinking of getting started, here’s a quick first step – a 10-minute online discovery questionnaire that will launch a free analyis your current processes. The “better way” to manage your inventory is something you could be doing in a few short weeks and will help achieve savings in the coming months.