Applying the right lean tool for a given problem follows directly from mastery of the lean principles. Following is an explanation of the Visual Management tool, the proper ways to apply it within your lean organization and its connection to the lean principles.
What Are Visual Management Tools?
Visual management is the application of any visual aid or device that promotes safer, more efficient, and less wasteful processes. The goal in using visual management is to create "status at a glance." This means an operating environment where normal vs. abnormal operating conditions can be detected easily and rapidly.
Visual management tools are used to:
• Provide status at a glance, enabling quick and simple detection of abnormal operating conditions
• Provide visual aids to help employees complete tasks more quickly and in a more standardized approach
Visual management creates a standardized work environment by providing instructions, directions, reminders, etc., on how the work is to be done. There are limitless possibilities in applying visual management. In fact, most companies probably have some visual management devices already in place.
From signs, to painted aisles, to dial indicators on equipment, these basic applications of visual management exist in most operating or administrative environment. The key is to find creative ways to apply visual management to reduce waste in activities, connections, and flows. Some common visual management techniques include:• Color Coding
• Kanban Cards
• Colored Lines
• Control Boards
• Area Information Boards
• Gages, Dials, etc.
• Checklists Using Visual Management Tools
Fig. 1: Visual management applied to Dial indicators.
Fig. 1 depicts a simple example of the use of visual management. Like error-proofing, visual management can be applied in so many areas that the use of the tool is only limited by the creativity of employees. From the office to the factory floor, consider using visual management when problem solving, conducting waste walks, performing 5S audits, or generating improvements in Kaizens. To stretch your thinking on how to apply visual management, think about applications at airports, stores, and libraries. Each of these environments relies on excellent visual management techniques.
Variations on Visual Management Tools
Visual management techniques can be used in a variety of ways with a limitless number of opportunities creating a significant variation in the actual application. Some synonyms for visual management would include visual factory and visual workplace.
How Visual Management Tools Relate to Rules and Principles
Visual management is a direct application of Rule #1: Structure every activity. Good visual management techniques create a structured work environment where normal operating conditions have been predefined and abnormal conditions can be quickly diagnosed. Put another way, visual management makes it very clear whether an activity is producing the results that were intended and conforming to the standards that have been set.
Fig. 2: Different levels of
The principle of Establishing High Agreement of Both What and How is applied through visual management. Using any of the visual management techniques discussed is a key component in creating a standardized work environment. Think of a simple example such as using tape lines to indicate where tools should be stored. The tools should be stored in the same location all the time, every time. Any discrepancy against this standard can then be examined for corrective action.
Fig. 3: Different levels of impact.
This example (Fig.4) also shows how visual management applies the principle of Systematic Waste Elimination. Wasted motion and waiting are eliminated because those looking for tools to perform a task know exactly where to find them. Visual management also cuts waste of correction as problems are prevented or quickly detected.
Fig. 4: The imagination of
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