Remember: ​There’s Always a Better Way

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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.