Visual Controls for the Lean Office

Posted by on Dec 14, 2010 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Visual controls in the workplace allow it to be self-explanatory, such that anyone in the area is able to understand the flow of work and what’s going on.  Visual controls are the feedback system that tell workers and management the current state of the work system.  When you use visual controls, you don’t waste time, energy, or effort looking for things, people, or defects.  You can easily see what’s happening, whether things are running according to plan or not.
Visual controls can be as elaborate as having a room in which charts and graphs are displayed that show the status of the various management metrics.  They can also be as simple as showing the status of each job in progress or the status of workers in the office.
Visual controls provide constant feedback on the process, not only helping to find bottlenecks but also facilitating quick actions.  I recently noticed a visual control at my bank.  There are three stations at the bank and when I walked in there were two people at two of the stations.  The third was not manned.  As soon as two more people got in line, an employee from the drive through manned the third station thus alleviating a bottleneck in the line.
Some examples of visual controls are the following:
  • Signal boards in banks, post offices, barber shops, etc. that flash the number of the person currently being served.
  • In a call center, an electronic board or screen that displays the number of calls in the queue, average wait time, current call time, etc.
  • In a purchasing office, a board that indicates how many orders have yet to be placed, how many are behind, and how many are past due.

It is important to keep the visual controls simple.  Make them sensory – color, lights, sound, visual cues, or space.  The more senses you appeal to, the more quickly you can gain status information.

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