CI 101

Is visual display and visual control the same thing?

A visual display share information at the point of need

Do you know the difference between visual control and visual display? A display tells information, and control prompts some action.

A visual display shares information or standards. It provides the right information, in the right format, at the point of need. Some examples are bin labels to identify different parts or materials, floor markings, safety signs, and defects displays. Work instructions and other types of job aids are also examples of visual display. Bulletin boards to share information like the safety record for the year, open job postings, and changes in policy are a very common visual display.

A visual control calls for action when something happens. The standards are part of the workplace, and a warning makes you notice that something abnormal happened. Sometimes, visual controls not only warn that something happened but also organizes behavior. When an operator pulls an Andon cord, the line stops sending a powerful signal warning of problems in the line. Everybody knows the warning means that the line stopped, and help is needed to fix a problem. The ultimate goal of a workplace is to have visual controls that prevent defects. Mistake proof controls use techniques that make it impossible to make mistakes.

Warning and call for action, organize behavior, and defect prevention are different levels of visual control. A visual display is the first step before you start building visual controls into the workplace. Many companies never moved from this stage, and wrongfully think that they have visual controls. To avoid that same mistake, keep improving one step at a time to reach the ultimate goal, to have mistake-proof controls.

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What is Visual Control?

Road traffic safety is an example of visual controls

The ultimate goal of 5S is to create a visual workplace. Visual controls make problems visible, communicate status, and improve performance. They also guide people to stop or prevent abnormalities.

A key component of road traffic safety is the group of lane markings, traffic signs, and signals. Think about a street’s intersection. The traffic light and pedestrian crosswalk are visual controls. As a driver, if you are facing a red line, you know that your right of way has ended, and you stop. A pedestrian uses the pedestrian signals to know when it is safe to cross. In the workplace, you can use visual controls to warn when it is time to buy more office paper or to communicate that help is needed.

Everybody in the work area understands the visual control objectives and knows what to do with the information. They work because when looking at them, everybody understands the same thing and act the same way.

If you use a chart to show orders completed per hour, you should be able to know if there are delays by looking at it. What you see will tell you if there is a reason to hurry up or just relax and keep your pace. Another example is the red tags used in the Red Tag Campaign as part of 5S. These red labels indicate that something was out of place, and call your attention for action.

If you want to create visual controls remember the following:

  • Make the team part of the visual control design process.
  • It must be visible at a distance, choose wisely the font type, color, and size.
  • Avoid cluttered signs and charts, it has to be easy to understand.
  • Use color code and fewer words whenever is possible.
  • Visuals communicate a standard and actual performance.
  • Ensure that the entire team knows what it is, the objective and rules. Even when they participate in the design process, a meeting or training to share those details is important. This will ensure everybody understands the same thing and reacts the same way to the signals.

In future posts, I will talk more about examples. For now, look around and identify visual controls around. Think about how you can apply this tool in your business. Any ideas?

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Are your processes consistent?

Do you get the same results out of a process always? If you do, then the process is stable, but if you don’t, then you need to stabilize it. How do you do that? 5S and visual management are the foundation for processes consistency.

5S stands for five words that together make this cleaning and organization methodology. The steps are Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain. By making 5S part of the daily routine, the workplace is clean and organized all the time. If somebody is not following the standard, and causing inconsistencies in the results, it is easier to see and correct.

A standard is what is supposed to happen. If your process does not have a standard, you need to create one. There are no improvements without standards, they are the baseline for comparison. In a visual workplace, the out-of-standard situation is easy to recognize, and employees can easily correct it.

When we fail to achieve the expected results, it is because the process fails. To have consistent results, we need to follow the standard. To improve the results, we have to improve the process. In my next post, I will discuss 5S in detail.