One of the most significant parts of Lean manufacturing is Visual Management. It is truly one of the most overlooked, but simplest tools available to manufacturers. Managing visually is the ability of a system to show the current status to anyone that stands and observes any part of the operation, within 30 seconds. It may be the production status, delivery status or a machine status. There must be indicators in place to let everyone know how things are going. Here are the basic elements of Visual Management:
Information Sharing – Simple notice boards that include graphs of performance summaries, customer surveys and key team achievements.
Standard Sharing – Sharing of standards and expectations in a visual manner, done regularly and in the same format.
Build In Standards – Sharing of standards to make it difficult to deviate from the expectations. A common example would be a Heijunka Box.
Deviation Warning – One of the most common visual management tools is a shadow board. It simply indicates where something should go or warn when something is missing.
Stopping Abnormalities – A simple alert when an abnormality occurs and allow the issue to be corrected. They are either manual or automated signals that highlight the occurrence.
Preventing Abnormalities – These seek to prevent an issue from occurring rather than alarming when the ice occurs. Simplest solutions are the best. Airline lavatory lights are a fine example, as they illuminate when the lavatory is occupied and prevent others from attempting entry.
So, the next time you are on your factory walk, look around. Stop and observe what is really going on around you. With proper Visual Management techniques in place, you should quickly be able to grasp and understand how each area around you is performing. If you are seeing problems, who is alerted to the issue and what are they doing to correct it? If you cannot quickly understand the status of each operation quickly, then it is time to revisit your Visual Management program and strive for simplicity and clarity.