As promised in my previous post, today I am presenting a few examples of visual management. For your convenience, I grouped them by the visual management level. I hope this clarifies any doubts you may have.
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.
Visual management is a way to visually communicate accurate information, standards, and performance within the workplace to make it available at all times to those who needed. The objective is to make out of normal situations visible to everybody, so that corrective actions can start immediately. Visual controls communicate a standard and actual performance.
A good visual workplace speaks for itself; it is easy to understand the status of the system performance at a glance. Effective visuals are simple, easy to see and read, everybody understand the same thing and act the same way. Managers, supervisors and operators, know what to do with the information.
Visual Design Process
- The first step to create visual controls is 5S, the foundation of visual management.
- The first level of visual control is put in place while working in the step 4, Standardization.
- Visual control design is a team activity, have a group of them participating in the process.
- Ask the following questions
- What do I need to know? What do I need to share? Where? When? Who? How? How many?
- Provide specific, precise, and complete information (the answer to the above questions).
- The answer to those questions needs to be obvious as people walk through the workplace.
- Create a basic layout, each type of information, always goes in the same place.
- It must be visible at a distance, choose wisely the background, font type, color, and size.
- Use graphics or pictures whenever it is possible, but do not overcrowd the visual.
- Adopt a symbol to acknowledge when the team meets the goals.
- Use less words, if possibly create symbols instead of a lengthy text, they take less time to read.
- To ensure it is easy to understand, use simple words, clear pictures, and charts.
- Use color coding when possible, be consistent with the meaning of the colors across the site.
Location and Use
- Install visuals at the point of use, where the information is needed.
- Ensure that everybody knows what the visual is, the objective, and rules.
In summary, for visual management to be real and effective, everybody has to see the same, know the same information, understand the same, and act in the same way. If these conditions are not present, then the visual is not effective. In a visually managed workplace, anyone will know the who, what, where, when, why, and how of an area within 5 minutes.
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.
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?
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.