kanban

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noun, often attributive kan·ban \ˈkän-ˌbän\

Definition of kanban

kanban was our Word of the Day on 01/15/2013. Hear the podcast!

Did You Know?

Toyota Motor Company is credited with developing the kanban system of manufacturing, which takes its name from the Japanese word for "sign" or "placard." In the kanban system, each shipment of parts used in making a product comes with a kanban, or sign. When the parts are nearly exhausted, the sign is sent to suppliers, who ship new ones to the assembly line. In the early 1980s, kanban became a buzzword in the American business community-offering a perfect example of how languages often reflect larger societal trends … and how trading partners often trade more than durable goods.

Origin and Etymology of kanban

Japanese, sign, placard; from the cards used on assembly lines to signal that parts are needed


First Known Use: 1977

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a dividing ridge between drainage areas

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