A growing Agile methodology is the use of kanban, a process-framework that we borrowed from Japan and Toyota. It’s a simple system coming from the automotive industry. What is interesting to read is that it isn’t perfect. Duh. So much hype and chatter is going on in the Agile community about kanban that if you spent any small amount of time in the Agile twitterverse you’ll most likely come upon more and more people praising the awesome-sauce benefits from kanban. But like Nokia failing the “Nokia Test,” it seems that Toyota might be failing the kanban test:
“Toyota adopted the “kanban” method to promote efficiency and reduce inventory. Under the method, Toyota procures the same parts from several companies, which increases competition among them and reduces the risks of relying on only a few makers…After the magnitude-9.0 quake and tsunami, which swept away one of Iwaki’s four factories in Yamamoto, Saito made a frantic effort to continue supplying parts to clients and maintaining the fragile supply structure that is so crucial in auto manufacturing.” – Asahi News
What has essentially happened is that the kanban system for Toyota has put them in a position of having just-in-time inventory, or rather, very little inventory. They just call on their manufacturing partners to send parts just as they need it.
“Takahiro Tomino, associate professor of production management at Meiji University, said the important thing in this supply system is to quickly recover production after disasters… If companies take measures, such as increasing inventory to prepare for once-in-a-century disasters, they will have to do so endlessly,” he said. “Using the March 11 earthquake as a lesson, they should grasp the entire picture of their procurement networks.“
In software development, we’ve all run into software disasters. Taking into account the whole picture of things for your development flow of work will help you when big issues happen. Don’t let a lack of inventory (stories/work) become a bottleneck for your development. Keep the flow going!
The real question is… would creating a big inventory have saved the day? Waste? What would that look like in software development?
[HT: Asahi News]