What is Kanban Pull System?

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Jan 08, 2024

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Kanban Pull System

Kanban is the methodology that helps in the workflow management system. The Kanban consists of Kanban board and Kanban cards to visualize the workflow to monitor, manage, track, and effectively control the projects. 

The Kanban was first contemplated by an Industrial Engineer working in Toyota Company in Japan called as Taiichi Ohno in the year 1940 to improve the efficiency of the processes in the company. Since then the Kanban has undergone various refinements and is now fully digital and computerized to manage the projects. 

The main principles of Kanban are to make inventory and production a Just-In-Time method of management and employ the pull system of the workflow.  There is much software available in Kanban such as Trello, Kanbanize, Monday, Smartsheet, etc which will enable the project manager to visualize, control, manage, and track the workflow. 

There are many features in the Kanban software such as Kanban Board, Kanban Cards, the three columns such as “To-Do” lists, “Work In Progress” that is WIP and “Work Done” columns. These are the minimum of three columns in the Kanban board. However the WIP column can be expanded further to development, testing, and release, etc. 

The other advantages of the Kanban software are the built-in automated charts such as Cumulative Flow chart, Histogram, Cycle time scatter chart, etc. 

In this article, we will discuss the Pull system of Kanban as opposed to the push systems. If you are interested to explore further we recommend you take up Kanban Management Professional Certification at StarAgile institute.

What is Kanban Pull Method?

One of the core principles of Kanban is the Pull system which helps the project to proceed further based on the requirements or emptying of the bins. As we have already discussed we have Kanban cards in Kanban. 

Kanban cards are used in many ways. To fill the empty production bin with the reorder cards, to ensure that the project is progressing smoothly, etc. The cards provide the pull signal to the preceding process for the requirement of the resources such as the materials, parts, semi-finished goods, etc. The pull signal, for example, the red card which indicates that the materials bin in the production is empty pulls the next inventory those next bins to the production. The same card is used for the first bin in reordering the inventory.  You can learn this in detail with examples in Kanban training at StarAgile.

The pull system is done by the cards which are pull signals in the processes. The pull system ensures that the materials are replaced only to the amount required or consumed in the successive processes. 

The pull system has many advantages when compared to the push system. The push system is based on the predictions and forecast whereas the pull system is based on the actual requirements such as emptying of the bins or optimal requirement of the used materials in the production.

A simple example for the pull system is that a car indicator which is a pull signal indicates the amount of fuel used by the car, and if it is nearing the reserve capacity then it indicates that we need to fill the fuel to the car. This is an example of a pull system in Kanban. 

Whether it is the Kanban board or Kanban bin system, the cards are the pull signal and when the work is over in the WIP stage of the Kanban board it signals that more work can be allocated from the backlog or “To Do” lists. Thus in the Kanban board, the cards travel from left to right. To know more register for the Kanban course at StarAgile.

Working of a Kanban Pull System

We can visualize the pull system works in Kanban board for software development. The pulls signals travel to the predecessor process from the right to left and the cards and the workflow travels from left to right.

The Kanban pull system helps in getting the work as much as the resources are present or the requirement is there, there is no overburdening or a lot of slack period in the pull system. The Kanban pull system is used to effectively manage, visualize, and track the progress in the Kanban board. Take up the Kanban training online at StarAgile for more information.

One more requirement is the WIP-Limits, the Kanban pull system can be applied with limits such as WIP-Limits which ensure that only the required amount of work gets entered or allocated to the WIP. This ensures that the process is stable and will be able to control the processes. By pull system, the work is done with high priority and there is no multi-tasking required to be done by the resources. It also increases the throughput and reduces the cycle time of the WIP work.

By employing the pull system you can track how much work is idle and it reduces the cycle time of the work. Keeping track of the processes will ensure that any problems or issues in any cards or the tasks can be attended at once without any delay and enables speedier delivery. The queue in the Kanban pull system is smooth and when the WIP-Limits are reached in the WIP column there is no work pulled further into the WIP stage.

Kanban is a Pull-Based method – The Advantages 

By employing the pull system the advantage is that the employees work on a single task when compared to the push system were their multiple works at the same time.

The advantages of the pull system are listed below,

  • Improves the efficiency of the workflow,
  • Reduces waste of resources
  • Manages and controls the workflow
  • Ensures that employees are occupied with one work
  • Reduces the waste in the processes
  • Reduces the waiting time in the processes
  • Enhance productivity
  • Work is done at a faster rate
  • The performance of the team is enhanced
  • The quality of the products is high and meets the customer requirements
  • Helps in managing the issues and problems that can be attended early in the cycle.
  • Helps to quickly adapt to the changes that may appear in the flow.
  • Enhance and optimizes the team capacity
  • Stabilizes the workflow by putting the WIP-Limits and pull system

Also Read: Kanban Inventory Management


We have seen in this article how the pull system works and what the advantages of the pull system in Kanban are. Kanban is being adopted not only in the manufacturing sector but increasingly adopted in software development because of the various advantages that we have seen. 

Kanban is the methodology that every project manager must adopt and nurture in the organization. The project manager is required to have skills in implementing Kanban in every process but also maintain it to manage the projects. The Kanban provides career growth, high salary, and in demand in every industry. We recommend that you take up the Kanban certification course at StarAgile. StarAgile provides KMP 1 certification which covers the pull system of Kanban among other principles and tools in detail. 

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