Visual Management Is The Heart of a Lean Organization

Posted by on Aug 1, 2021 in Lean, Lean Healthcare, Visual Management | 0 comments

A lean organization makes extensive use of visual management techniques.  These techniques require the placement of all tools, parts, activities, and indicators of the system performance so that the status of the system can be understood at a glance by everyone involved.  The objective is to be able to see the factory — its workflow, its performance, its problems, and its improvement opportunities.

Visual management helps everyone understand the flow and is a major contributor to the elimination of waste in a process.  Shadow boards help employees identify missing tools needed in the process.  Utilizing them reduces changeover times and increases productivity and efficiency.  Kanban squares, flow-through racks, and other FIFO inventory management methods provide visual information on inventory levels.  A visual warehouse is organized to keep all quantities of a given part number in the same location.  This allows employees to see the correct inventory levels and prevents a given part from being stored in several locations.  Andon lights are used to signal a call for material or maintenance and are used in hospitals to signal a patient in need of assistance.  Lean factories are laid out so that parts flow from incoming receiving to fabrication and subassembly and then on to final assembly.

Another critical component of the visual organization is information display.  Information should be displayed at three levels: individual work area performance, department performance, and overall organizational performance. A display board might be used to address safety, 5S status, quality, delivery, training, and efficiency information.  Key performance metrics can be tracked using run charts and causes for deviations from goals can be prioritized using Pareto charts along with corrective actions.  Individual performance can be monitored using production analysis boards in factories or personalized kanban time-tracking systems in office environments.  These tools allow actions to be taken to avoid missing critical deadlines and help disperse work more equitably in the office.

Overall organization performance can be aggregated and displayed.  This overall organization communication center can also include information on major events, i.e. customer visits, etc., or other current events, as well as recognition of teams and individual employees.  The objective is to communicate enough information so that everyone in the organization is aware of key information, but at the same time, isn’t overloaded with data.  Typically when a company installs communication boards there is an immediate improvement in performance.

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