Manufacturing, engineering, and other teams have great success in implementing electronic Kanban boards as well. In fact, the manufacturing floors of Toyota are where Kanban first originated. Although modern-day implementations of Kanban vary from the original practices used, many manufacturing and engineering teams still find Kanban project management principles to ring true.
One commercial bus manufacturer was falling behind every month in completing all the engineering tasks that were needed for production. The backlog of engineering tasks was becoming larger every month and threatening bus delivery and customer satisfaction. Kanban project management was a last-ditch effort to restore the backlog to a normal level.
Various engineering groups also had created a problem by working in functional silos; everything was organized by either mechanical or electrical engineering tasks and no one was allowed to work across that line.
No one worked together and the inefficient handovers back and forth were killing their throughput.
Everyone focused on their engineering tasks without pairing up, swarming, or collaborating with dependent teams or groups as needed. Their list of blockers grew as big as their ungroomed backlog.
Initially, a physical Kanban board was implemented because their process was so convoluted. It took a few weeks to iron out who did what, and where the Kanban cards went after that. One group spent a day with a Kanban project management trainer who went through their process with them and helped them design steps in their flow that made sense.
The teams began holding a daily standup where they worked to identify and resolve blockers, and pair up and tackle the most critical work together, rather than only working on tasks that had been pre-assigned to them.
The gentle pull system of Kanban began to do its magic! Engineers spoke up and asked for help; others offered help when they had capacity. The workload started to balance out between team members.
Soon, engineers had cleaned up their backlogs, prioritized their board by the most urgent and critical work, and delayed the trivial, non-urgent work by handing it over to the offshore team.
Kanban project management allowed key engineers to focus on urgent, critical work immediately and reduce their cycle time from about eighteen days to nine days.
The engineers also were able to improve their throughput so dramatically that they created bottlenecks at the review and processing stage, leading to even more collaboration. They learned to create war room reviews where all the required reviewers met in an Agile open work area and time-boxed each review to twenty minutes, so they could break through a big bottleneck of twenty reviews in less than a day; prior to this, work commonly stayed in the queue for review for two to three weeks.
Soon, their success was touted across the entire engineering organization. This led to cross-pollination of other teams, who went through the same process, until all the engineering teams had implemented electronic Kanban boards to better monitor and track their work, reduce bottlenecks and cycle time, and improve throughput.