Japanese are good at manufacturing. Just ask any global producers of automobiles, copiers, or personal electronics what happened in the 1980s. They will probably tell you how the Japanese captured a large share of the global-market by creating world-class standards in design, materials, and management. What is often overlooked is the attempt to understand how the Japanese industry succeeds at the services that support the manufacturing process (Krajewski et al, 1987: 40). Within the production field, the Kanban process is the most significant of these services. The concept of time-based management is nothing new for managers outside of Japan and has been in practice for many years. However, the Kanban process involves more than just in time deliveries and inventory control. Briggs (1993: 29) notes that Kanban process components are the most 'exportable' of Japanese techniques, but the complete process itself has not yet been successfully adopted outside Japan.
1-1 THE ORGANIZATION OF THIS REPORT
This report will focus on the interlinked components and features which constitute the Japanese Kanban process of time-based management. In addition, it will examine the potential for the successful implementation of the process into Australian manufacturing firms. Experience from the adoption of Kanban theories in North American manufacturers will serve as the foundation on which the Australian case is built upon.
2-0 THE JAPANESE KANBAN PROCESS- MORE THAN INTERNAL 'JUST IN TIME PRODUCTION' TECHNIQUES Most Japanese manufacturing companies view the making of a product as continuousfrom design, manufacture, and distribution to sales and customer service. For many Japanese companies the heart of this process is the Kanban, a Japanese term for "visual record", which directly or indirectly drives much of the manufacturing organization. It was originally developed at Toyota in the 1950s as a way of managing material flow on the assembly line (Perelman, 1994: 85). Over the past three decades the Kanban process, which Bernstein (1984: 48) identifies as "a highly efficient and effective factory production system", has developed into an optimum manufacturing environment leading to global competitiveness. The Japanese Kanban process of production is sometimes incorrectly described as a simple just-in-time management technique, a concept which attempts to maintain minimum inventory. The Japanese Kanban process involves more than fine tuning production and supplier scheduling systems, where inventories are minimized by supplying these when needed in production and work in progress in closely monitored. It also encourages; Industrial re-engineering, such as a 'module and cellular production'
system, and, Japanese human resources management, where team members are responsible for specific work elements and employees are encouraged to effectively participate in continuously improving Kanban processes within the Kaizen concept (Stainer, 1995: 11).
2-1 THE KANBAN
The Japanese refer to Kanban as a simple parts-movement system that depends on cards and boxes/containers to take parts from one work station to another on a production line. Kanban stands for Kan- card, Ban- signal. The essence of the Kanban concept is that a supplier or the warehouse should only deliver components to the production line as and when they are needed, so that there is no storage in the production area. Within this system, workstations located along production lines only produce/deliver desired components when they receive a card and an empty container, indicating that more parts will be needed in production. In case of line interruptions, each work-station will only produce enough components to fill the container and then stop (Roos, 1992: 112). In addition, Kanban limits the amount of inventory in the process by acting as an authorization to produce more inventory. Since Kanban is a chain process in which...