Kanban is Japanese and literally means “signboard.” In the context of project management, the term is interpreted as “queue limitation.” Kanban is a method designed to reduce unfinished work and wasteful inventory levels; it was originally developed at Toyota in the late 1940s. Back then, marketers at Toyota studied consumer behavior and supermarket stocking strategies and applied the ideas to logistics in industrial production. At Toyota, they had previously produced as much as possible, regardless of the demand from the market. In contrast, in supermarkets, customers take only what they need, expecting that the supermarket will be stocked up the next time they visit. The customer “pulls” an item from the shelves and the supermarket makes sure to refill the shelves. This new Kanban method applied to production provided just as much as what was needed, just in time.

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