Often people confuse visual controls with visual displays. A visual control calls for action while a display exhibits information. 5S, the five steps for cleaning and organization provides the basis to build a visual workplace. There are four different stages or types of visual management, display, calls for attention, organize behavior and defects prevention. Only the last three are considered visual controls, they show the standard and the actual performance.
The basic stage of visual management display, it only exhibits or tells information. Level 1 of this stage, gives people information that you want or need them to know. For example, headcount, open positions, visitor schedules, and safety trends. The second level shares standards at the site. Work standards remind the employee of the right way to do the job, but they do not tell what to do if something is out of standard.
The second stage, calls for attention, has levels 3 and 4. In level 3, you start building standards into the workplace. The difference is that now, a signal points out when something is out of standard. At this step, you start using, for example, status boards with metrics posted each hour, heat sensor stickers, gauge labels, and oil level indicators.
Level 3 sets the baseline for the next level where metrics are in real-time, and alarms or strobe lights go off when the actual performance is different than standard. At level 4, the visual warns about abnormalities it speaks to you.
The third stage, organize behavior, is level 5. When something happens, it calls your attention and also guides your behavior. In other words, it prevents defects from happening because you know what to do when you receive the warning.
The ultimate goal of every visual management system, prevent mistakes, is level 6. At this stage, you and your team implement simple, low-cost devices that prevent problems from happening or stops the workflow when defects occur to prevent more. Error-proof devices have shapes, guides, or sensors that prevent the person from inserting them in the wrong direction or shut down the device to avoid injuries.
Many companies never moved from the first stage, and wrongfully think that they have visual controls. To avoid that mistake, start with 5S and keep improving, one step at a time to reach the ultimate goal, mistake-proof controls. In my next publication, I will show you examples of each stage of visual management.