What Is a Pull System?

Purpose of Pull Systems – controlling over-production in the value stream

The purpose is to build a no consumption, no replenishment principle that applies to product as well as discrete parts being consumed in maintenance and operations. Pull Systems ‘pull’ the product through the value stream from the customer end of the process as opposed to trying to ‘push’ product through from the beginning to the end and by doing so, prevent over-production.

Push Systems, typically poorly configured ERP, modify actual customer demand in the value stream potentially making more product than can be sold in the marketplace.  This a dangerous scenario when conservation of cash is an essential business principle that is often overlooked in the drive for profit.  Ironically, value streams that operate in a push environment suffer from not producing enough finished goods for the customer as the processes tend to be swamped with work in progress, hiding the problems that prevent flow.


  • Minimise inventory
  • Right product, right time, right quality, right place, right quantity
  • Improve cash flow

Pull Systems come in many different forms. A pull system can simply be a footprint painted on the floor which gives production the authority to produce when empty or can come in the more sophisticated form of a kanban card, a signal that travels upstream in the process to give the command to produce more.

Graphic showing product being pulled through the production chain by the customer


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This page was written by Bob Newton in February 2018.
Due for review in 2019.

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