Kanban is a "pull" type of production system. This means that customer demand "pulls" production through the system. If a production line makes widgets, the number of widgets made, and when they are made, depends on customer demand.
Customer demand might be indicated by there being no widgets in the shipping area. This signals that production should begin to produce more widgets. The demand from the shipping dock, called a kanban signal, starts and stops the production of widgets.
Almost anything can be a kanban signal. An empty pallet, a bucket, a shelf… even golf balls.
In a kanban system the method of handling supplies and components is highly flexible, capable of meeting and responding to the specific working environment and customer needs. For example, customer demand, signaled by empty pallets on the shipping dock, trigger the assembly of new widgets. This creates a demand for the components used to make widgets and that demand "pulls" production of widget components such that more components are produced.
Thus kanban is a "pull production" system in which demand signals the need to produce more.
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