The use of supermarkets is a kanban best practice. They insure steady availability of material to consuming cells, albeit at a cost of maintaining some inventory buffer.
But how do supermarkets stay stocked at the minimum inventory levels? Manufacturers, like DJ Orthopedics has linked the supermarket electronically to internal suppliers in their machine shop. This level of e-kanban Lean efficiency is accomplished through Signum, the product of Datacraft Solutions (www.datacraftsolutions.com).
FAX KANBAN is NOT Efficient and NOT Lean
At ten minutes per fax, someone is spending 3.5 hours per day in administration time. That inefficiency results in less time to utilize more suppliers or improve the relationships with existing suppliers.
Furthermore, even if 99% of those faxes are trouble free procurement signals, four faxes per month are going to be problematic and dilute the entire rationale for a lean manufacturing operation. Suppliers claim they did not receive the fax kanban; suppliers cannot make the shipment date requested and expedited shipping fees are incurred, or worse, there will be a stockout which will negatively impact customer service levels.
According to Sam Bayer, President of Datacraft Solutions Process improvements with existing suppliers will further reduce lead times and inventory levels and bring more suppliers onto the system.