Origin of kanban

< Japanese kamban literally, ‘signboard, shopkeeper's in-business sign', probably alluding to the shop or tavern keeper's final call for orders before taking the sign down, hence 'last-minute, just in time' in the context of inventory control < Middle Chinese, equivalent to Chinese kàn ‘look’ + bǎn ‘printing block’
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British Dictionary definitions for kanban


  1. a just-in-time manufacturing process in which the movements of materials through a process are recorded on specially designed cards
  2. any of the cards used for ordering materials in such a system

Word Origin for kanban

literally: advertisement hoarding
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012