How I created a Lean Kanban System in 8 steps – A proven method

Here I will tell you how I create a Lean Kanban System following 8 steps.

# Step 1 – I did my homework on the daily consumption.

Good Idea

The first change was in my mindset.

Typically, I used to think: “I am the supervisor of the production, I do not care about the problems of the others. They have to give me what I need immediately.

Well, I told myself: “I am wrong, I have to help the others to help me.”

Hence, after a tough day, I went into the system, and I did a historical research to answer this simple question: “How many kgs of paints I usually consume in a week? Color by Color”

knew that the consumption, was not constant every week but I told myself that I had many years of experience and I was the guy that could do the best estimation in the company.

I imagined a scene where the buyer was willing to help, and I was not able to answer a simple question like: “Ok, I will help you but how many kgs of red paint do you use weekly?”

If I was not able to answer immediately, probably, I was very close to losing the “momentum.”

If you have not a prompt reply and data to support, they will not consider your intention to change a “real purpose” but only another waste of time.

To put differently, you have to know what you want and be ready to answer the questions they will do when you ask for help.

The more you are prepared, the more you are credible.

Coming back to the story here is the table I calculated:

Blue – 50 kg/week
Red – 25 kg/week
Yellow – 50 kg/week
Black – 75 kg/week
Green – 25 kg/week

# Step 2 – I found an ally to share vision and benefits.

After, I did myself another simple question:

“Who buy the paint in the company?”

Specifically, I was looking not for the office or department I was looking for a person with a name.

So, after an easy investigation, I found my person; the name was Mike!

Mike was the colleague that was buying for me the paint, and I had a lot of arguments with himin the past because of the shortage of material.

Honestly, I did not that Mike was accountable to buy all the paint I needed.

Here I did something different again.

I did not send any e-mail, but I went off from my office, and I walked to Mike’s office to speak with him face to face.

Here the exact phrase I used:

“Hi Mike, I did not know you were buying for my department all the paints, and I know we had a lot of problems in the past. I am here to propose you something different that will solve our problems forever.”

I still remember Mike’s face …

Mike was thinking of a more complex or further work for him, but I immediately told:


“Mike, I want to propose you something very simple. For 2 months do not do any calculation of what you have to buy, just buy every week the quantity I estimated. What do you think?”

Mike told me:

Fumetto Verde

“Ok, you are saying that I have not to calculate nothing and buy on weekly base. It could be interesting but do you know how many kgs do you consume every week?”

Homework of Step 1 … do you remember?

I took from my folder the sheets with the data I collected with my notes.

This was a killer!

Mike was impressed and willing to listen.

I told him: “Let us fix this simple rules”
1) Every Tuesday you will buy the fixed quantity we agreed.
2) Every Friday we will check if the paint has arrived.

What do you think?
Mike told that for him was a game changer and a very simple work, but what about the inventory and cash control?

Here the exact sentence I used:


“Mike, I do not think that 6 SKU over 500 SKU will affect the stock and cash of the company. What do you say?”
He agreed, so we started …


Use as much as you can: What do you think? What do you say?
Involvement is the key for the Lean Production!

Moreover, listen and listen again.
It is better a rough solution with a shared vision that a fine solution alone.

# Step 3 – Learning by doing.

For the next 2 months Mike bought the quantity, we agreed, and we set a 5-10 minute meeting to check orders and delivery of the paint.


I created into department a Visual Control (RedYellowGreen) into the
paints cabinet and I put a simple rule shared with workers: “We have never see the RED LEVEL, if someone sees the RED, notify this to Mike and me.”
This is the Lean KANBAN. This is the signal!

This is the Lean KANBAN SYSTEM. A standard way to see the signal and act accordingly.

Honestly, was not easy at the beginning to deal with this little extra work and to motivate our self we printed a sheet in our offices with this slogan:

“Never again without paint!”

Do you want to listen more?
Here the difficulties we experienced:

1) I underestimated the quantity of the Red paint, and we were very close to stock out again.

2) I overestimated the amount of the Green, and the inventory increased.

3) People was looking at us and wondering what we were doing together.

4) The supplier was not reliable in deliveries.

Here what was a game changer?

Because was a “team project” made with the scope to a mutual benefit (win-win) when something went wrong we worked together to find a solution to fix the problem for the future.

We passed from blame each other to help each other.

Can you see the difference?

Now read this important rows.

There is a moment of the transformation where everything seems to go wrong. People starts to look at you and indicators appears to go into the wrong direction.


this is the moment where you have to sit with the team (even if 2 people) and start with the 5 why’s analysis. Ask yourself and the team why the indicators are going wrong and do a plan to fix it.

Go for reality, interview people, see numbers, sketch models at the whiteboard.

To give you an idea we tested more than 5 different way of doing before finding the model that worked for everyone.

Once a consultant told me the real “win-win” solution is when the model is “convenient” for everyone involved in the process.

# Step 4 – No more fire-fighting.


After 4-5 months we celebrated our first goal.

We were able to have no stock-out of the six SKU under the project Lean Kanban.

Honestly, the inventory was a little bit higher compared to the past, but we were able to work smoothly by doing the ideal sequence you can read below:

1) See the schedule (Red Paint)
2) Take the red paint from the warehouse
3) Load the machine
4) Start!

We were able to move from a 23 Steps to a 4 Steps process.

Can you see the difference?

# Step 5 – It’s time to improve.

Hands Difficulties

When you have not to firefight every day, you have time to think.

We decided to refine our inventory level, by “jumping” some order of paint we had too much in stock.

Then, we called the suppliers to find a better way of communication and sharing the idea and the standard.
At the end of 1 year, we were able both to work smoothly and have the inventory under control.

# Step 6 – It’s time to go to managers.

Once chatting with Mike, we told:

Fumetto Verde

“Why we have to struggle with the others materials? Now we know how to solve it!”

So, we decided to prepare a short presentationon what we did with steps and numbers.

Then, we went to a department close to us where Mike used to buy another kind of materials, and we spoke to the supervisor proposing him the project in this way:


“Hey, David! How are you? May we ask if you have any problem with the stock out of material?”

We knew that the answer was YES!

Fumetto Verde

“We would like to propose you a deal. You tell us which are the most critical SKU you are struggling with your weekly consumption and we will guarantee you no more shortage. What do you think?”

David was in doubt.

We told him:


“Look at this presentation and ask the paint workers how is their work in the last 6 months. We will be back in 7 days”.

7 days later we went back to David and asked for his thoughts.

David told that he did some investigation and was willing to join this project.

Mike and I were now ready to go to managers to ask for support, and so we did.

We asked a manager an appointment of 30 minutes. The subject of the meeting was: “How to avoid stock out of material with the right level of inventory – A real experience.”

# Step 7 – The meeting.

Kanban User

Mike and I prepared the meeting into details.

We decided for 6-7 slides with pictures and graph and with few words of text.

Then, we agreed that the scope of the meetingwas to have the commitment from the managerby going into the departments to support the projects and asking update every month.

The day arrived, and we did the presentation. The manager was impressed by the results, and we told that we already had another department willing to implement the Lean Kanban System.

The manager said: “Ok, what do you want me to do?”

We answered: “We would like you to set a monthly meeting of 30 minutes at the shopfloor asking for an update and give some support in case.”

The manager said: “OK, I think is a good deal.”

# Step 8 – The end of this story about Lean Kanban.


The manager did what was promised (30 minutes a month was a good deal to him).

We continued in the paint department and started in David’s department.

Every month we met with the manager looking at the simple metrics of inventory and n° of stock out.

Then the manager started to see results and start bringing guests and other managers to see what we were creating.

Finally, in a couple of years, we were able toexpand the Lean Kanban System for 500 SKU’swithout any stock out and with a massive reduction of inventory.


In this pages, I reported what I did to implement a Kanban System on 500 SKU with 2 years of “NO STOCK OUT” and a huge reduction of inventory.

I do not know if it is the best way but worked great.

To start implementing a Lean Kanban System you have to start with WHY!

Here the steps I followed and suggest you follow.

1) My suggestion is to start with a problem you have.

2) Then, you have to state your problem and be prepared with data.

3) Then, find someone in the process to work together.

4) Create a team! It is easier, funnier and more engaging.

5) Start implementing the Lean Kanban Systemfor a limited list on SKU, set a metric and meet weekly to monitor what is wrong by 5 why’s analysis.

6) Resist during the tough moments.

7) Then, the results arrive. It is proven! See some video on the Internet of large enterprises ( – Philips, Boeing, Harley Davidson, etc.).

8) Once the first results are stableprepare another area to start the Kanban System implementation.

9) Then, go to managers with results and a plan for implementation. Moreover, ask for 30 minutes a month to support you.

10) Finally, reiterate the process again and again. This is also called continuous improvement.

Now it is your turn!

How I created a Lean Kanban System in 8 steps – A proven method

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