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Building a Kanban System with Google GSuite

Over last 6 months or so I've been playing with Google 's GSuite (disclaimer..I'm a MIcrosoft fan having lived through Windows 3.11 and so many revisiosn of office it's scray) to do a number of things for a client who is a user including building an ISO9001 system with it but in talking to some friends on a Lean group I'm in on WhatsApp we started to wonder if it was possible to do more and in fact build an automated Kanban system with it, guess what.. you can!

What we are playing with and showing isn't a final version it's still very much a work in progress but it gives you a great idea of exactly what is possible with the systems available to be able to do this at no or very low cost.

This thing about Googles G Suite product (Sheets, Docs, Slides, Sites, Forms) is the amount of free or nearly free add on's that there are, all available from a simple gallery that is right there under the add on toolbar. These are 3rd party add ons that extend the ability of the G Suite system to make tricky things easy or to interface or automate what you want to do. Here are list of the ones we have used as a few examples.

Copy Down 

Copy Down is a little plugin for Google Sheets that you add to google sheets to copy down the values in a cell automatically, we are using it in conjunction with a sheet that we are filling in via a form, once the data is in Copy down will copy all the calculations we have used like simple additions to Vlookups from a master line to the new entry. This means you can get all the data you want automatically without having to continually pop into the sheet and update it. You can also copy down and past as values

QR Code Generator 

As the name suggests this is a QR Code generator and works in Google Sheets, we used this to create QR Codes for our prefilled in Google Forms, it'll do a number of things as well as create the QR Code, it'll save it as a document, as a png image, it'll let you create name tags which you can use for scanning anything. We used it for creating Kanban tickets you can use in your lean inventory system.

Ultradox 

Ultradox is a major add on for G Suite and is basically a coding system for automating anything you can think up that you would want to do. I'll pull data from a spreadsheet, reform mat it, analyse it, email things out, PDF them, it'll even interface with things like Zapier which is a great system that acts as a connector between all of your systems and lets you move info between them, check that out as well.

We used Ultradox to pull the latest entry in our google sheets, check if it was adding or using stock and if the purchase had been approved. If it had then it would automatically create a PDF and email it to the supplier.  

There is also an Ultradox add-in for Docs which will let you create & edit templates used in the output of ultradox.

formRanger 

formRanger is a great add in for Google Forms. It basically creates a look up system that takes the data from a column in a google sheet and uses that as the list of values in a form. We used this to load the products in the Kanban in this system so that if we add a new product to the product sheet it is automatically added to the form without us having to edit again. We have used it in other sets ups to manage customers, quality data non conformances but all basically for the same reason, it's possibly my favourite form add in.

Form Approvals 

Form Approvals basically does what it says on the tin, it creates an approval workflow for your form too allow it to be approved or declined and so forth. The approvals can be for 1 person or multiple and in a set order. There is even the ability to add in logic that only kicks the workflow into based on certain criteria so you could have things that either don't need approval or approvals for different things got to different people. The approvals are sent via email so it's best if it's goign to a gmail address but it will work outside of that as well.

Form Publisher 

Form Publisher is another great add in which basically takes the input from your form and creates a PDF output from it that can be emailed automatically, saved to a spreadsheet and again has an approval workflow in it, we haven't used it here but it's worth checking out where you don't need to do any calculations on the data you are getting via the form.

Prefileld Links 

This isn't an add on this is a standard element of Google Forms. A prefilled form is great if you want to code it to load automatically as we did with our QR code. You simply fill the form in as you would want it and in the top right control options for the form select Get Prefilled LInk. This link will show you the form with all the options you have preselected filled in. In our case it was for each of the products being added or used and a qty of 1. This is coded to a single URL link that we converted to a QR code and placed that on the kanban tickets.

Summary 

As I mentioned at the start I'm a microsoft guy so I really have only scratched the surface of G Suite over the last 6 months so what I have shown here isn't polished unlike the ISO system we have built but it gives you a great view of how you can create an integrated and automated system using G Suite and the add on's for essentially zero investment. The Add On's available for the system are really impressive and I'm sure will keep growing in number and I'd say the use is limited only by your own imagination.

In this example, I hope you can see how you could easily set up a kanban system in your organisation, probably with a little more work to create a great and simple to use system but then benefits with these systems are huge!


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Saturday, 19 January 2019

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