Kanban in the Kitchen and Craft Room

Monday, May 2nd, 2011 : 0 Comments

As three kids and a mortgage have domesticated me, I find myself face-to-face with a world of home-based processes to analyze. In particular, I’ve noticed various ‘flavors’ of Pull implemented around the house.

The first is one I’ve seen mentioned in more than one place – kitchen kanban. Replenishing inventory in the kitchen may sound like one of the more mundane activities in our lives, but it is an opportunity to apply Pull principles.

Some households keep a bin under the sink for empty packages, and when someone finishes an item, the empty package (whether it is garlic powder shaker, a milk jug, a strawberry clamshell, or anything else) goes right in the bin – signaling the need for replenishment. This is analogous to the ‘inbox’ in a Pull implementation.

Kitchen pantry

kitchen pantry image by nikchick

Then, when it is time to head to the store, a quick list of what is in the bin provides the Pull based replenishment. Perfect! Now, there are some limitations with this Pull Design – in particular, it requires at least two of every item or else stock-outs will certainly occur, but with a little tweaking (reordering milk when it is below half of container, and putting a process in place for ‘make to order’ items for upcoming recipes), it can work smoothly.

My second example is from an even more domestic slice of home: My wife has recently learned to quilt and she read about a quilter who had a great system for organizing her in-process projects. This super-quilter had so many jobs going at once that she couldn’t keep track of her materials and she could never seem to finish anything (You can read her whole post here). Sounds like a cycle time problem at a highly utilized resource, no? To solve the problem, she purchased 10 bins and in her words:

“Each WIP has its own box. I have 10 actual WIPs. My new unwritten rule is that I can’t start a new project until I finish one. So, no more than 10 at a time.”

She essentially invented CONWIP for herself – fantastic!

If you’re interested in learning more about these various flavors of Pull, we have a whitepaper available that describes four flavors of Pull for high mix manufacturing environments. Click here to read it.

How are you using the principles of Lean in your home – or office?

Post by Charlie Agullla, VP Consulting

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