What is Visual Management?

Visual management is a form of communication used to give a snapshot of manufacturing operations.

The goal of visual management is to translate shop floor processes and production statuses into easy-to-understand visual overviews.

Think of it as manufacturing’s scoreboard. With one glance, the whole team can get an understanding of a factory’s performance.

Types of Visual Management

Visual management takes many forms. Let’s go over each in order to understand how it fits within lean methodology.

Visual Management Using Factory Layout

Visual management is often applied to factory layouts. Visual management tools like the FIFO lane help make workflows and cell design more intuitive. Assembly lines are organized in a manner to direct production flow from start to finish, with visual indicators placed at important points. This allows line operators to know which stage of production they are by the station they occupy.

Visual Management Using Tools and Parts

This form of visual control is done by incorporating Kaizen foams and shadow boards. Kaizen foams, similar to shadow boards, have outlines cut for each specific tool. This provides fast detection if a tool is missing or identifies where to place a tool once its use is done.

Visual Management Using Markings

Visual control of this nature employs the use of labels and markings throughout the shop floor. Most forms of labeling and markings of the shop floor is government regulated to ensure safety to shop floor operators. But labels and markings are key sign posts of what actions to take, where to locate a particular item, and what areas are restricted on a shop floor.

Visual Management Using Data Displays

This form of visual management deploys digital information displays across the shop floor to highlight KPIs. These forms of display are called Andons and dashboards. They broadcast real time analytics detailing shop floor performance.

What’s the relationship between 5s and visual manufacturing?

5s (set, sort, shine, standardize, sustain) is a lean manufacturing principle for increasing order and efficiency in work environments. When combined with 5s, visual management can produce significantly better functioning work environments.

Functions of Visual Management

Process Transparency

Visual management of the production process amplifies process transparency. By increasing process transparency of the production process, the need of hierarchical communication between subordinate and supervisor is reduced. This loosens non-value add bottleneck activities such as asking repetitive questions and the like.

Discipline

Visual tools can be used to habitually maintain correct procedures. By continuously interfacing with visual management, a manufacturer’s workforce is influenced into maintaining process standardization throughout the production cycle.

Job Facilitation

Deployment of visual aids improve cognitive and memory function when performing routine tasks. Use of visual clues such as shadow boards within the workspace reduces the need for non-value add actions like searching for tools.

On the Job Training

Visual management facilitates on the job training as information pertaining to the production process is readily available. This form of training is effective as it engages personnel into practical experience and is less work disruptive organizational practice.

Benefits of Visual Management

When practiced regularly and consistently, visual management can greatly improve the efficiency of manufacturing operations. Some of the benefits include:

  • Improved process efficiency
  • Reduced waste (for all of the 8 wastes of lean)
  • Safer workflows 
  • Inventory storage that matches production demands 
  • Higher team engagement

Conclusion

Visual management can provide a simple and yet effective solution to enhance information flow in many manufacturing shop floors. Easy access to production information not only maintains the integrity of production quality, but it can also be used to boost efficiency and aid in training.

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