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Kanban cards are a key component of Kanban, a signaling system common in Lean production, that utilizes cards to signal the need to move materials within a manufacturing or production facility or move materials from an outside supplier to the production facility.

The Kanban card is, in effect, a message that signals depletion of product, parts or inventory that when received will trigger the replenishment of that product, part or inventory. Consumption drives demand for more. Demand for more is signaled by Kanban card. Kanban cards thus, in effect, help to create a demand-driven system. It is widely espoused by proponents of Lean production and manufacturing that demand-driven systems lead to faster turnarounds in production and lower inventory levels, helping companies implementing such systems to be more competitive.

Kanban cards, in keeping with the principles of Kanban, should simply convey the need for more materials. A red card lying in an empty parts cart would easily convey to whomever it would concern that more parts are needed.

In the last few years, Electronic Kanban systems, which send Kanban signals electronically, have become more widespread. While this is leading to a reduction in the use of Kanban cards in aggregate, it is not uncommon in modern Lean production facilities to still find widespread usage of Kanban cards.

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