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The Japanese word referring to making fundamental, radical changes in order to improve a production system or business.

→ in contrast to kaizen


The Japanese word referring to an opportunity for continuous improvement achieved by making incremental changes.

→ in contrast to kaikaku


The Japanese word referring to a card (sign or signal) that indicates how many and what units are to be made by a production unit (production kanban) or taken from inventory as input for a production unit (withdrawal kanban) (Figure 1).


Figure 2 illustrates that in construction, the ready-mix trucks used for batching and delivering concrete can act as kanban. Each time an empty one arrives at the batch plant (the supplying process), it must be (re)filled with the pre-agreed upon mix and up to the desired quantity. The truck then returns to the site (the customer process) where the concrete will be placed. This batch process does not allow any inventory of product to be maintained (no supermarket) because the product is perishable.


Kanban is a means to limit the amount of inventory in a production system. It is a means to match and keep together the information flow with the material flow in a production system (Johnson and Broms 2000 p. 92).

Example: A milk-run system uses empty bottles for kanban (containers).

Rother, M. and Shook, J. (1998). Learning to See: Value Stream Mapping to Create Value and Eliminate Muda. v.1.1, Oct., The Lean Enterprise Institute, Brookline, Mass.
Figures 1 and 2 are from Tommelein, I.D. and Li, A.E.Y. (1999) “Just-in-Time Concrete Delivery: Mapping Alternatives for Vertical Supply Chain Integration.” in Tommelein, I.D. (editor), Proc. 7th Annual Conference of the International Group for Lean Construction (IGLC-7), 26-28 July, held in Berkeley, CA, USA, pp. 97-108.


A structured routine you practice deliberately as a beginner, so its pattern becomes a new habit.

Rother, M. (2009). Toyota Kata: Managing People for Improvement, Adaptiveness and Superior Results. McGraw-Hill, 306 pp.
Rother’s website:

Kingman’s Formula aka. VUT equation

A mathematical expression of the relationship between waiting time vs. utilization, variability and cycle time.

Tq ≈ V * U * T


Tq is the expected time spent waiting in a queue

V is a characterization of the variability in the system

U is a characterization of the utilization of the system, that is, how close to 100% capacity it is running

T (or CT) is the cycle time, that is, the process time and wait times in-between process steps

Kingman, J. (1961). “The single server queue in heavy traffic.” Mathematical Proceedings of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, 57 (4): 902.

(to) kit

Grouping of various parts and instructions (e.g., by putting them in a bag or bundle), to be delivered as one unit to the work face, also known as “bagging and tagging.”