In a pull manufacturing system, inventory is only pulled through each production center when it is needed to meet a customer’s order. Pull systems allow “just-in-time” delivery of work. Unlike other work methods that allow for an unlimited amount of work at once, a pull system enables everyone at a specific organizational level to focus on one thing (or just a few things) at one time.
Benefits of using a Kanban control system or pull system include:
- Ability to manage change
- Ability to quickly adapt work to new information
- Increased ability to scale the team to the appropriate size for the project
As they work through a list of “to-do” items in a backlog, team members pull new tasks only as old tasks are completed. This way, when something changes that impacts the business requirements (as it always does), the team can quickly adapt, knowing that the majority of work they have already completed can still be applied to the project.
Finally, because teams using a pull system are self-managed to a certain degree, pull systems contribute to the scalability of a team, or the ability for a team to accommodate different sized projects while remaining cohesive.
For manufacturers, this means teams can be more agile, deliver faster, and innovate faster and more strategically. Organizations that adopt a Lean pull system are also able to significantly improve the reliability and accuracy of forecasting for their suppliers and customers.
An organization-wide commitment to continuous improvement is essential for sustainable success with Lean manufacturing. At its core, Lean is continuous improvement – it’s improving product and process while eliminating redundant, excessive, or inefficient activities.
Continuous improvement can be viewed as a formal practice or an informal set of guidelines – but it must be well integrated into the culture of an organization in order to make a meaningful and lasting difference.
Measurement, KPIs, and visualization
A famous quote by management expert and consultant Peter Drucker says, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.”
Lean manufacturing metrics, such as lead time, cycle time, throughput, and cumulative flow help organizations measure the impact of their improvement efforts. Collecting, analyzing, visualizing, and socializing these metrics (through shared dashboards) is essential to promoting transparency and driving change.