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What are Kanban Cards?

If you’re interested in continuous improvement,  or perhaps your company is, you may have heard about Kanban. The Japanese car manufacturer Toyota is almost synonymous with Kanban, as the system  (which translates as ‘visual card’ or ‘visual card’ was made famous when they used to improve business process and efficiency in the 1940s.

The fundamental part of the Kanban system is a Kanban board and Kanban card. A Kanban board could be established for one business process – e.g. a clear start and end project – and a Kanban card contains one aspect of that work. Each Kanban card contains relative data such as deadline, cycle time and other information, all of which is relevant to the team.

One aim of Kanban cards is to carry the appropriate information, thus reducing time spent in meetings and in discussions. With each card and board working as an information hub, the work process is transparent to all.

Are Kanban cards physical or digital?

In the initial era of Kanban in manufacturing such as Toyota, Kanban cards and Kanban boards were physical, and manipulated by hand.

Due to the success of Kanban boards, different industries have adopted – and amended the Kanban board process – and today Kanban cards are digital, rather than physical.

Although primarily working the same way as physical Kanban cards, digital Kanban cards carry information on the front and back of each card.

  • Front – task title, description, who assigned to, priority, cycle time and subtasks. The aim of the front side is for anyone to quickly be able to see an overview of work items.
  • Back/rear – is for recording valuable metrics and additional information, e.g attachments of results, links, comments, historical data etc. When the card is open, this side of the Kanban card is visible so all the information needed is in one place.

How do digital Kanban cards help a business continually improve?

By adopting a digital Kanban system such as Kanbanize a business can improve any part of its workflow. By breaking a project or task down into measurable steps, and implementing digital Kanban cards, productivity can be measured.

From the Kanban cards, failings/issues and areas of inefficiency can be identified, and then a continuous improvement measure adopted. For example, it could be noted time was wasted or subtasks were being duplicated, in which case by eliminating either the task could be completed quicker and more efficiently in the future.

Why Kanban cards are worth using for continuous  improvement of a business

As Toyota proved with their adopting of the Kanban system, almost every aspect of work can be improved – if the will is there, along with a method of recording and planning.

Whatever type of business adopts a Kanban system, the theory is still the same – measure, record and improve each of the tasks with the information gathered as the workflow proceeds.


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