Card-based production control : a review of the control mechanisms underpinning Kanban, ConWIP, POLCA and COBACABANA systems

Thurer, Matthias and Stevenson, Mark and Protzman III, Charles W (2016) Card-based production control : a review of the control mechanisms underpinning Kanban, ConWIP, POLCA and COBACABANA systems. Production Planning and Control, 27 (14). pp. 1143-1157. ISSN 0953-7287

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Since the emergence of Kanban, there has been much research into card-based control systems. This has included attempts to improve Kanban and/or develop alternative systems, particularly ConWIP (i.e. Constant Work-In-Process), POLCA (i.e. Paired-cell Overlapping Loops of Cards with Authorisation) and COBACABANA (i.e. Control of Balance by Card-Based Navigation). Yet, to date, no unifying review of the mechanisms underpinning these systems has been presented. As a consequence, managers are not provided with sufficient support for choosing an appropriate system for their shop; and researchers lack a clear picture of how the mechanisms compare, leading to several misconceptions. This paper reviews the control mechanisms underpinning the Kanban, ConWIP, POLCA and COBACABANA systems. By comparing the ‘control mechanism’ (i.e. the loop structure and card properties) and ‘contextual factors’ (i.e. routing variability, processing time variability, and whether stations are decoupled by inventory or the flow of jobs is controlled), we provide managers with guidance on which system to choose. For research, we show for example that most criticisms put forward against Kanban systems, e.g. to justify the development of ConWIP, POLCA or COBACABANA, only apply to work-in-process Kanban systems and not to production Kanban systems. Future research directions for each control system are outlined.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Production Planning and Control
Additional Information:
This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Production Planning and Control on 22/05/2016, available online:
Uncontrolled Keywords:
?? card-based controlkanbanconwippolcacobacabana strategy and managementmanagement science and operations researchindustrial and manufacturing engineeringcomputer science applications ??
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Deposited On:
06 May 2016 15:56
Last Modified:
15 Jul 2024 16:00