Visual management is a huge part of Lean Manufacturing and the Toyota Production System. It is one of the simplest tools and often overlooked, due to it’s simplicity. As the name implies Visual Management is the ability to manage everything in your factory (and support areas) visually.
What do you mean by managing visually?
Managing visually is the ability of a system to quickly show the current status to anyone that stands and observes, within 30 seconds. It may be the production status, deliver status or a machine status. There are indicators in place to let everyone know how things are going. And if visual management has been done well, EVERYONE in your factory understands and knows how to resound if something is wrong.
Types of Visual Management
Visual metrics are among the first tools implemented during a Lean implementation. the displaying of data to tell us how each area is going is useful. The challenge is to ensure the information is gathered by those doing the work, in a timely fashion, and displayed so everyone in the area understands the current status. This also needs to be taken a step further; metrics must drive actions and there needs to be a clearly defined process for taking action and getting support when it’s needed.
Visual controls cover more broadly how an area works physically – matters of where items are located, general housekeeping and controlling the flow of production can all be covered by visual controls. We have covered a few methods of visually controlling production previously, through First In, first Out Lanes, kanban and two-bin systems. Again for each of these systems in place, there needs to be a clearly defined process for getting support when it’s needed.
So on your factory walk today, just stop (in a safe location) and observe what is going on around you; try to observe with the eyes of a new-comer. Can you tell how each area is performing? Will they meet their targets this week? If not, who is doing something to correct the problem? when will it be fixed by? If you can’t answer these questions within a few minutes, then it’s time to revisit your visual management.