We are always surrounded by Visual management tools but they are so common, we might not even think about them. Most common example is when a car is about to run out of fuel, a light will blink and alert you about the problem. Next is, a message waiting indicator on your desk phone. Human brain can quickly process these visual clues and use the information to make decisions.
Lean principles use these powerful tools for management and improvement. When an organization is striving for continuous improvement can benefit with lean management.
What do Visual Management Tools Do?
We’ll get into the specifics of some of the most popular Lean visual management tools in a minute, but it is useful to point out that visualization has some important goals. The following are the tools:-
- Share Information with Others
- Communicate Standards
- Enforce the Standards
- Bring Attention to Irregularities
- React to Irregularities When They Happen
- Prevent Irregularities from Occurring
Lean organizations focus on delivering maximum value to the customer by eliminating waste and creating processes that produce consistent, predictable results. Following visual management tools are used to achieve those aims.
Kanban is a visualization technique which is designed to manage and enhance workflow. It uses visual cues to balance demand with available capacity and remove system-level bottlenecks. Work items are represented visually to give participants a view of progress and process, from start to finish – in the form of a Kanban boards. When the workflow is in visualized form and work in progress is limited, any interruption in flow can be identified, targeted, and resolved before a backlog happens or grows too large. This is important in all industries, as backlogs cause more investment, create prioritization conflicts, and increase the distance to customer value.
Toyota first used the Kanban approach to limit work in progress and minimize inventory using cards to indicate that the inventory needed to be replenished. Today, many organizations use Kanban boards to represent workflow and reduce friction within processes.
5S is a workplace organization method that uses a list of five Japanese words which have been translated into English as “Sort,” “Set In order,” “Shine,” “Standardize” and “Sustain”. 5S is also termed as “visual control, visual workplace, or visual factory.”
5S is not simple housekeeping, but concentrating on reducing waste, based on maintaining the standards and the discipline required to manage the organization – all achieved by upholding and showing respect for the workplace. In a well organised workplace, it becomes easy to recognize when something is missing or out of place.
Implementing one or all of these techniques, adding the element of visual management, especially when assisted by technology, will help any organisation to accelerate the pace of improvement, reduce irregularities, and keep everyone engaged.