Kanban- From the streets of Japan to its application in Software development.

If you are in the field of software development and have not been living under a rock, you must have come across terms such as Kanban, Agile, and scrum. So what do these terms actually mean? .In this article, we will have a look at the humble origins of kanban and how it has evolved over the ages. 

Also, if you are looking to implement Kanban for your personal use, there are a bunch of kanban platforms in the market, including common names like Trello, Kanbantool, and so on. 

In case you are interested in an absolutely free kanban platform, Kanban project is not just free but also loaded with a bunch of features that you can use.

It was in the 1600s, a time when Japan entered the Edo period and its economy was stabilizing. The streets of Japan bloomed with a number of small shops and every shop owner was trying to attract customers to their stores. It was on these streets, where the initial concept of Kanban was born. “Kan” in Japanese means “signals” and “ban” stands for boards. Thus, “kanban” roughly translates to signboards. These signboards were becoming increasingly popular in those streets. Shops could be seen with custom-designed signboards appealing to all the passersby. 

From the humble origins of signboards, Kanban has come a long way. Kanban now means a visualization tool for process improvement. It can be defined as a visual workflow management system. Kanban is used to keep track of work as it moves through a process. It is a means to design, manage, and improve flow systems for knowledge work. Kanban is one methodology that seeks to attain JIT inventory.

The Toyota Production System

Modern-day kanban was first used in the Toyota Production System. Taiichi Ohno, known as the father of the Toyota Production system pioneered the Kanban system. Ohno recognized the inefficiencies in the production line and looked for ways to improve their processes. A car manufacturing unit requires approximately 30000 parts and components moving through the assembly line. Ohno observed that low levels of productivity and unnecessary inventory were hampering their efficiency and decided to solve the problem.

Do you know from where the inspiration for modern-day Kanban emerged?

The Supermarket !! Yes, that’s right. 

Taichi Ohno observed how grocery shopping was done in a supermarket and applied it to the production system in Toyota and thus Kanban came to existence.

Application in Software Industry

Over time, Kanban has traveled from lean manufacturing to agile software development. Agile methodology is a practice that centers around continuous iteration of development and testing by self-organizing and cross-functional teams throughout the Software development life-cycle. Agile is an alternative to the traditional or waterfall model of software development. It is an ideal process for those who want to work with continuous feedback. The primary object of each iteration is to come with a working product. Having understood what is agile, lets now understand how Kanban appears in agile methodology.

What we need to understand is that Kanban is not a process of its own, but a process improvement method. When agile teams use kanban, it can result in a reduction in lead time and increase productivity. Team working with agile methodology can use kanban software to identify the bottlenecks in their current workflow and improve their existing processes.

Components in a Kanban Board:

According to David Anderson, kanban boards consist of 5 major components. Kanban cards, columns, work-in-progress limits, a commitment point, and a delivery point. Let’s have a look at what each means.

  1. Kanban cards– One of the first things easily noticeable in a kanban board is the kanban cards. These cards are a visual representation of the tasks. Kanban teams write details about the tasks and descriptions onto these cards, usually one per card. In the case of agile teams, one card represents one user story. Once these cards go on the board, these visual signals help kanban teams and other stakeholders to quickly understand what the team is working on.
  2. Columns– Another significantly important component in the kanban boards are the columns. The columns represent different stages of the workflow. Each column is a representation of a specific activity and all these columns put together comprises the workflow. The kanban cards flow through the workflow until their completion.
  3.  Work In Progress (WIP) Limits — WIP limits refers to the maximum number of kanban cards that can be in one column at any given time. A column whose WIP limit is four, cannot have more than four cards in it. Limiting W-I-P is crucial in identifying bottlenecks and resolving them to increase efficiency.  The limit also allows teams to complete tasks faster by focusing only on current tasks.
  4. Commitment points– The commitment point refers to the moment when a project idea is picked up by a kanban team and the work starts on that particular project.The project ideas can be put on board by customers and teammates.
  5.  Delivery point– The main aim of Kanban teams is to take the cards from the commitment point to the delivery point as fast as possible to maximize the flow. Delivery point refers to the moment where the workflow ends and the product or service is handed over to the customer. The time taken from the commitment point to the delivery point is called the lead time and the main aim of Kanban teams is to reduce this lead time.
  6. Kanban swimlanes- These are horizontal lines on a kanban board that can be used to separate products, teams, personnel, activities, and so on.

Want to bring Kaban into your life? 

There are several online kanban platforms available in the market. Kanbantool , Kanbanize, and popular ones like Trello are some of the platforms you can try. However, if you are looking for an absolutely free platform to use, which is loaded with features to help you implement kanban for personal use, then you can try the kanban project.

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