Kawasaki Saves a Bundle with LANSA-Based eKanban System
February 5, 2013 Alex Woodie
The American consumer products division of Kawasaki is saving $3,500 per day as a result of its new electronic Kanban (eKanban) system that combines IBM i and iPad technology. The manufacturing system replaces a traditional card-based Kanban system, and was developed using the LongRange mobile development tool from LANSA, according to a new case study posted to the software company’s website.
The consumer products division of Kawasaki Motors Manufacturing Corp. U.S.A. (KMM) manufacturers a range of products in its Lincoln, Nebraska, facility, including ATVs, Jet Skis, recreational utility vehicles, and wheels. The company has been a LANSA customer for some time, and in 2002 adopted LANSA’s ERP Framework offering, which it then customized to provide manufacturing and warehousing capabilities.
According to LANSA’s case study, KMM utilizes lean, just-in-time (JIT) manufacturing methodologies to help minimize the amount of parts it keeps in its assembly lines and adjoining parts room. A key element of KMM’s JIT strategy was a card-based Kanban system that would help factory workers identify which parts to bring to the assembly line. The Kanban cards travel with parts, and are used to signal when parts need to be brought from the parts room, and when declining stocks need to replenished from suppliers.
KMM’s Kanban system was effective at helping to minimize parts-stocking levels and streamlining manufacturing, but it had its own impact on efficiency. The company would use up to 4,500 cards per day, and during a Kanban cycle, up to 10 people would handle each card. There was also no way to enforce business processes with such a manual system.
The company wanted to implement a more automated electronic Kanban system since 2005, but it didn’t think it had the mobile development skills necessary to implement the system it had in mind. Then, KMM caught wind of LANSA’s new mobile development program, called LongRange, which is used to develop native mobile apps served from an IBM i server.
The company signed up for the beta, and started developing. Armed with tutorials and some assistance from a LANSA pro, three KMM developers created a series of new native iOS apps for the iPad. The first app allows users to scan in new parts at the assembly line, via a Bluetooth scanner. The system provides much more detailed tracking of parts than the cards did, and automatically integrates with the company’s ERP system to trigger replenishment activities.
KMM IS supervisor Jay Kamradt estimates that, by eliminating the manual handling of cards, the new eKanban system is saving the company more than $3,500 each day. Plus, there are other benefits. “Previously once parts left the warehouse, we didn’t have any means to record where on the assembly floor they went or how many were accumulating there,” she says in the case study. “Now we have an accurate real-time recording of parts anywhere on our premises, whether in the warehouse or on the assembly floor.”
The developers went on to develop five more iPad apps, for cycle counting, scrap reporting, recording of inventory location moves, and other warehouse and assembly related tasks. The apps were readily adopted by KMM’s employees, and are now integral to the company’s manufacturing activities. “My advice to other IBM i shops is to jump in with both feet to provide users with mobile apps. It won’t take you long to realize the benefits,” Kamradt says in the case study.
To read the complete KMM case study on LANSA’s website, see www.lansa.com/casestudies/kawasaki2.htm.