Kanban ("kan" means visual, and "ban" means card or board) is a concept related to Lean or Just In Time (JIT) production, but these two concepts are not the same thing. (The Japanese word "kanban" is a common everyday term meaning "signboard" or "billboard" and utterly lacks the specialized meaning which this loanword has acquired in English.) According to Taiichi Ohno, the man credited with developing JIT, kanban is a means through which JIT is achieved.

KanBan is often seen as a central element of “Lean” manufacturing and is probably the most widely used type of “Pull” signaling system.

Kanban is a signaling system. As its name suggests, Kanban historically uses cards to signal the need for an item. However, other devices such as plastic markers (Kanban squares) or balls (often golf balls) or an empty part-transport trolley can also be used to trigger the movement, production, or supply of a unit in a factory.

Kanban are usually 'tickets' but can be simple visual signals, such as the presence or absence of a part on a shelf.

Kanban scheduling systems are among the most simple, effective and inexpensive means for manufacturing production and inventory control.