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Kanban links with ERP


July 5, 2010
by Noelle Stapinsky, Features Editor

Checking inventory using RFID technology.

Photo: iStockphoto

Kanban has always been an integral part of lean manufacturing, streamlining production processes, shop-floor operations and inventory control.

As the system evolved from the traditional, painfully manual, cards (or other objects) used to signal the need for an item to electronic kanban that uses radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, manufacturers got improved clarity and a more reliable way to track information as it progressed through their facilities.

There’s just one problem. “It sort of stopped there,” says Dave Suffecool, director of Seeburger Inc.’s solutions architects, an Atlanta-based supplier of global business integration solutions. “It never really got to the point that it was integrated into enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and making sure that the replenishment orders were going out [automatically].”

With RFID technology already employed, the information stream is there, but getting the ekanban system and the ERP system to communicate would eliminate manual data entry, and allow full integration of inventory and production planning.

Seeburger’s end-to-end eKanban Asset Management makes such integration possible. It’s the first to combine hands-free RFID consumption monitoring, ERP calculation of inventory based on production, and an electronic data interchange (EDI) for both production line and vendor inventory replenishments.

Seeburger’s new ekanban module and business integration server (BIS) connects RFID equipment, ERP and warehouse management systems (WMS) to automate goods receiving, and allow real-time production line consumption visibility, automatic inventory updating and warehouse and vendor replenishment based on ERP pull signals.

Validating inventory
The information flows automatically from the RFID system for validation and reformatting to meet ERP requirements.

“If a kanban card is showing that something is being moved through the process that was never put in inventory, the system will do a validity check,” says Suffecool. “And if an ekanban bin holds 100 [parts or components], then all of a sudden it’s saying there are 1,000 in the bin, it validates that as well.”

Once inventory passes all validity checks, the information is passed to the ERP system, which sends a status report saying it has accepted the information and passes the validated information back to the kanban system.