Why does sports fans glance at the scoreboard every so often when all the action is clearly on the field? The answer is obvious and very simple: the scoreboard generates and maintains interest. It provides unambiguous feedback about performance and answers important questions about the status of the game. Visual management shares real-time information and feedback about the status of your operations.

Visual management system is implemented mainly to ensure problem-solving and focuses on continuous improvement, with the specific aim of reducing response time and providing teams with the information they need to eliminate waste and other problems such as poor quality. It’s a fundamental part of empowerment and ownership. By providing teams with feedback, they are given the responsibility and accountability for their actions. It also leads to transparency in operation and even more efficient.

Helping lean principles ‘come to life’

One of the first principles of lean management is to directly observe the work as activities, connections and flows. When the work is visual and clear it becomes much easier for workers/ employees to directly observe and understand the progress. Visual management is therefore the most important and fundamental aspect of lean principle. Visual management technique actually helps the lean principles ‘come to life’. Similar to an impressive and well-delivered speech that drives people to act, the skillful and judicious application of visual management techniques can move the business practices to a higher level of realization and efficiency.

When visual management is implemented in the right way, it becomes easy to see and understand the workflow and its progress. It helps to:

  • identify in control and out-of-control situations
  • identify high levels of variability
  • identify trends which are positive or negative

A visual workplace is always easier to manage over time. With techniques that make performance more visible, less time is wasted in finding problems and performance-related issues. Visual management makes it easier to implement continuous improvement, the true objective of Lean principle.

In an ideal scenario, visual management should be integrated with the wider organization’s management system. Once visual displays have been installed and teams and employees at all levels have access to this visual key information, it should extend to updating performance boards/ informative boards on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.

As per the situation and department, a daily or weekly review should take place. Systemic level reviews should be conducted for departmental boards at a time that suits the environment (i.e. weekly, fortnightly). More strategic initiatives are to be reviewed at the senior management level on a monthly basis, with key measures reviewed daily and weekly. Visual management is considered to be a company-wide ‘nervous system’ that allows all employees to understand how they affect the operation’s overall performance. It allows people to understand how their actions and decisions affect or impact the overall strategic direction of the company. Visual management displays provide an open window to your manufacturing plant or factory performance, making the same unbiased information available to people at various hierarchies in an organization be it an owner, manager, operator, and even visitor.

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