How to use Kanban boards for better cannabis operations + a free template

Here we talk about how your cannabis operation could, and should, use Kanban boards for efficiency. And share a template!

Kanban Boards are great for cannabis operations

PART ONE: What is a Kanban board & why should I use one in my cannabis operation?

At Elevated Signals, we’re all about driving productivity and optimizing cannabis operations - so we are always keen to talk about ways to make cannabis facilities more efficient.

With this in mind, we want to explore some of the best-practice tools we see used in other environments and industries - but not necessarily in cannabis operations - and give you some tips on how they could help your facility...and what better place to start than Kanban boards?

What is a Kanban board?

In its simplest form, a Kanban board is essentially a “to-do, doing, done” list. You often see them on office walls made out of sticky notes.

Kanban boards are really useful for cannabis operations

A form of ‘Agile’ project management, the Kanban system was originally developed in the 1940s by Taiichi Ohno, an industrial engineer working for Toyota automotive in Japan. By using the process, the manufacturer was able to produce what was needed, only when it was needed - avoiding overproduction and the requirement to keep a large inventory. Kanban is often credited with taking Toyota from operating at a loss, to the global giant it is today.

The system gained popularity in the early 2000’s when the software industry adopted it (at Elevated Signals our team of developers rely on it) and today there are a number of Kanban board tools available that digitalize the process, making it even more effective for project management.

What are the advantages of using a Kanban board in a cannabis operation?

Kanban boards help you visualize the progress of any project or workflow, which ultimately reduces the burden on teams and provides producers with the transparency they need to make better decisions. There are many advantages to adopting this approach in your cannabis facility, for example:

  • Improved visibility and collaboration: Kanban boards allow teams to look at the state of downstream process, helping them ask the right questions and plan for their own processes
  • Removing bottlenecks: Information is readily available so you don’t need to ask questions. It’s no longer a question of “can I package this lot” its now “when do I anticipate packaging this lot”
  • Higher predictability: Gained through less interruptions, helps you make better sales decisions, The Kanban board system helps you reduce the amount of waste and better manage your inventory

Why should I adopt Kanban boards in my cannabis operation?

Cannabis operations have become way more complex in recent years. While the legal industry started out focused on flower, the introduction of 2.0 products brought with it a whole load of new inputs, adding an extra layer of complexity to stock and inventory.

Furthermore, there are more cannabis SKUs, teams are bigger, and Covid-19 has led to less predictable supply & demand. As a result, communication between teams can often be difficult - and it’s not always easy to know what is going on in a facility at any given point.

With the cannabis operations getting more and more competitive, if producers want to survive, and thrive, they have to start exploring new, innovative ways to drive efficiencies.

Keep reading  to find out exactly how to build and use a Kanban board in your facility, and download a free template.

Part Two: How to use Kanban boards in your cannabis facility + a free template

So, we've talked about Kanban boards - what they are, and why cannabis operations should consider using them.

Now we want to talk specifically about how to use Kanban boards in your cannabis facility. The exact use and setup will be different for each cannabis operation - it will depend on how your organization is run, and what it is you want to streamline... but we’ve gone ahead and made an example board to help illustrate what it could look like.  

Tip: roll out Kanban boards in small doses, starting with very specific teams i.e. your harvest team. Once you’ve figured out a structure works on a small scale - you can apply the concept across the board. See the below example for a harvest team.

Kanban board template for cannabis operations

Harvest team example

an example of a Kanban board set up a cannabis operation could use

This is a sample board designed to help a harvesting team. It’s public so feel free to take a look here and use it as a template.

How do I use Kanban boards in my cannabis operation?

Team leads across cannabis cultivation, harvesting, and drying would discuss activities with one another ahead of time in a daily huddle (max 15 mins) to coordinate boards. Once coordinated the team leads and break apart and continue work for the day.

  • To-Do: When in a To-Do state the board's due date represents when a harvest is expected to start.
  • In-progress: When in an In-Progress state, it signals that a harvest is underway and the due date represents when a harvest is expected to be completed.
  • Done: Finally, when in a Completed state the due date represents when the work was completed. Again signalling to various people within the organization that activities for this team have been completed and activities for other teams can start.

Using Kanban board software you can trigger alerts of different departments within your cannabis operation and create better visibility across the organization.

Three Kanban tools you could use to optimize processes in your cannabis facility

As previously mentioned, at Elevated Signals our software developers have used the agile approach to project management - and Kanban boards - for many years, so we thought it might be useful to recommend a couple of the tools that we’ve used and liked:

Trello: Trello is a web-based, Kanban-style, task management/list-making application. It prides itself on being really easy to use, and accessible for all sorts of teams from marketing and HR to sales and ops.

Our opinion on Trello:  Great to place to start playing around with Kanban boards if you’re new to the process
  • Asana: Asana helps teams orchestrate their work, from small projects to strategic initiatives. Teams can use it to manage company objectives, through to digital transformation and product launches.
  • Click-up: ClickUp describes itself as “one app to replace them all”. Its product roadmap software offers everything from docs, reminders, goals, calendars, scheduling, and even an inbox.
Our opinion on Asana & Click-up:  Click-up and Asana are both great for teams who are familiar with project management software. Each has strengths and weaknesses - Click-up lets us shift an entire schedule forward, which is not possible in Asana, very handy for cultivation teams!

To conclude…

As we mentioned in part one of this blog post, at Elevated Signals, we’re all about driving productivity and optimizing cannabis operations, and Kanban is just one of many tools that you might want to try at your facility to make things more efficient.

We’d love to hear of any other techniques that you use to speed things up! Got questions? Get in touch with us: hello@elevatedsignals.com