Welcome to my morning routine. Perhaps more information than you care to know, but you’re going to get it anyway. It’s a good example of everyday Lean.
I wear gas-permeable contact lenses. Though the parents who watch me umpire youth baseball have serious doubts about it, my vision is pretty good with these lenses. To do this, though, I have to keep my lenses clean and that means using distilled water to rinse the lenses each morning. Several years ago, I noted that I kept running out of the water and forgetting to buy more. Or I’d stock up and have to keep all these gallon jugs sitting around.
Boom. It hit me. I had an inventory problem. And we solve inventory problems with pull systems.
What I set up is one of the main types of kanban systems. In this case, it is often called “container kanban.” I have two jugs that contain distilled water. I use one to refill the smaller squeeze bottle each morning. The other jug sits by our sink, full. When I empty the first one, the empty jug gets to my car, while I begin using the other jug. The “jug in the car” is thus the signal to me to stop by our local supermarket where they have a reverse-osmosis water station. And for 49c, I can refill my jug. No new container used. Virtually zero waste. No pressure on me to run out and get more water. No multiple jugs sitting around.
When I explained this a while back to my friend Matt Gudeman, he chuckled and said “Joe, you don’t have kanban, you have jugban!” Indeed.
It is a pull system. As I use up water, I replace it. But most importantly, I do not have to think about distilled water at all until I need it. It frees up mental space for more important things, like the infield fly rule.
Any kanban system should do just this. Make the inventory replenish itself with little intervention and little brain space devoted to it.
Lean in everyday life. It works. I hope this is helpful. Hal, you are next!