by Allan Ung
"The purpose of visual management is to make
the invisible visible."
Visual management is a powerful tool that can help organizations improve their processes, communication, and collaboration. By using visual displays, metrics, and controls, organizations can create a culture of transparency, accountability, and continuous improvement. In this blog, we have discussed the definition and importance of visual management, its applications in lean manufacturing, the benefits it offers, and the various visual management techniques and tools that organizations can use to achieve their objectives. We have also highlighted some of the common mistakes in the application of visual management, and provided best practices for effective implementation.
Definition of Visual Management
Visual management is the practice of displaying information in a visual format to enhance understanding and communication. It is a method of conveying important information in a simple and easy-to-understand format. Visual management uses different visual tools to represent data in a graphical format, such as charts, graphs, diagrams, or photographs. This method of communication helps to reduce confusion, errors, and misunderstandings, leading to improved decision-making and process improvement.
Visual Management Is and Is Not
Visual management is a method of using visual aids such as charts, graphs, and other visual representations to enhance understanding, communication, and process improvement. It is a lean management tool that can help teams in identifying problems, improving teamwork, and increasing productivity.
However, visual management is not just a matter of putting up posters or charts on the walls. It is a systematic approach to analyzing processes, identifying areas for improvement, and designing visual aids that are suitable for the team and the organization. Furthermore, visual management is not a one-time event, but rather an ongoing process of continuous improvement.
While visual aids can facilitate communication and problem-solving, they are not a substitute for critical thinking or face-to-face communication. Visual management tools can only enhance these activities, but they should not replace them.
It is also important to note that visual management is not isolated from management standard work. Management standard work includes defining and communicating clear expectations, setting goals, providing resources, and holding people accountable for performance. Visual management should be integrated into management standard work to track progress, identify issues, and facilitate problem-solving.
The Importance of Visual Management
Visual management is a powerful tool for process improvement, as it helps to make information readily available and accessible to everyone in the organization. By providing a visual representation of data, it allows people to quickly understand the current status of a process, identify problems and opportunities, and take appropriate actions. Visual management also helps to enhance communication between different departments and levels of the organization, leading to better teamwork and collaboration.
Benefits of Visual Management
The benefits of visual management include:
1. Improved communication: Visual management helps to enhance communication by providing a simple and easy-to-understand way of conveying information.
2. Reduced errors: By providing a visual representation of data, visual management helps to reduce errors and mistakes.
3. Increased efficiency: Visual management helps to identify and eliminate waste, resulting in increased efficiency.
4. Improved decision-making: Visual management provides information in a format that is easy to understand, leading to improved decision-making.
5. Better teamwork and collaboration: Visual management helps to enhance communication and collaboration between different departments and levels of the organization.
Types of Visual Management
Types of Visual Management
There are three types of visual management:
1. Visual displays: Visual displays are used to provide a visual representation of data. Examples of visual displays include graphs, charts, and diagrams.
2. Visual metrics: Visual metrics are used to measure the performance of a process. Examples of visual metrics include cycle time, lead time, and throughput.
3. Visual controls: Visual controls are used to monitor and control a process. Examples of visual controls include andons, warning sensors, and poka-yoke.
The Visual Management Triangle
The Visual Management Triangle is a concept that illustrates the three key elements of effective visual management. These elements are seeing as a group, knowing as a group, and acting as a group.
The Visual Management Triangle
(Source: Adapted from Pascal Dennis)
1. Seeing as a group: This element focuses on creating visibility and transparency across the organization. It involves using visual displays to provide real-time information about production status, inventory levels, and machine availability. By making this information visible to everyone in the organization, it enables employees to quickly identify and respond to issues, and helps to promote collaboration and teamwork.
2. Knowing as a group: This element focuses on ensuring that everyone in the organization is aware of the goals, schedules, and management rules that are in place. This involves using visual aids such as dashboards, scorecards, and schedules to provide a clear picture of the organization's performance and objectives. By ensuring that everyone is on the same page, it helps to promote alignment and reduce confusion and misunderstandings.
3. Acting as a group: This element focuses on promoting action and engagement across the organization. It involves creating consensus on rules and objectives, and involving everyone in improvement activities. By promoting a culture of continuous improvement and involving everyone in problem-solving and decision-making, it helps to foster a sense of ownership and accountability, and encourages everyone to take an active role in driving the organization forward.
Overall, the Visual Management Triangle provides a framework for creating an effective visual management system that enables employees to see, know, and act as a group. By focusing on these three key elements, organizations can create a culture of transparency, alignment, and continuous improvement, and achieve higher levels of productivity, efficiency, and quality.
Applications of Visual Management
Visual management is widely used in lean manufacturing, a methodology that focuses on eliminating waste and improving efficiency. In lean manufacturing, visual management is used to identify and eliminate waste, improve workflow, and enhance overall productivity. Visual management is also used in other industries such as healthcare, construction, logistics, and hospitality, to improve processes and increase efficiency.
Visual Management Techniques and Tools
1. Poka-yoke (Mistake-proofing): Poka-yoke is a technique used to prevent mistakes from occurring in a process. It involves designing a process in such a way that it is impossible to make mistakes. This technique can be achieved by incorporating devices, jigs, or tools into the process to help prevent errors. For example, designing a process with the help of visual markings where a component can only be inserted in one orientation or size to prevent incorrect installation. By implementing poka-yoke, the likelihood of errors and mistakes is significantly reduced, improving quality and efficiency.
2. Andons: Andons are visual signals used to indicate the status of a process. They are used to alert operators of problems or abnormalities in a process. Andons are typically displayed on a screen or board, and can be color-coded to indicate the severity of the issue. This allows operators to quickly identify and address problems, minimizing downtime and improving efficiency.
3. Warning sensors: Warning sensors are used to detect abnormalities in a process and trigger an alarm or visual signal to alert operators of the problem. Warning sensors can be used to detect issues such as low inventory levels, machine malfunctions, or quality problems. By using warning sensors, operators can quickly identify and address problems before they escalate, reducing downtime and improving productivity.
4. Red tagging: Red tagging is a visual management tool used to identify items that are not needed in a process. Items that are not needed are tagged with a red tag and removed from the process. Red tagging can be used to eliminate waste and improve efficiency by identifying and removing unnecessary items from the process.
5. Activity board: An activity board is a visual display used to track the progress of a process. It provides a visual representation of the status of different tasks in a process, and helps to identify bottlenecks and areas where improvements can be made. By using an activity board, teams can quickly identify areas where improvements are needed and take appropriate action.
6. A3 storyboard: An A3 storyboard is a visual tool used to document and communicate a problem-solving process. It is a one-page document that includes a visual representation of the problem, the current situation, the root cause analysis, and the proposed solution. A3 storyboards are used to facilitate communication and collaboration between team members, and to ensure that everyone is aligned and working towards a common goal.
7. One-point lesson: A one-point lesson is a visual aid commonly used in Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) to communicate important information about a process, tool, or technique. It is a simple and concise document that includes a visual representation of the process, along with instructions on how to perform the process correctly. One-point lessons are used to ensure that all team members have a common understanding of a process and are able to perform it correctly.
8. Standard work chart: A standard work chart is a visual representation of the steps required to complete a process. It includes information on the sequence of tasks, the time required to complete each task, and the standard work sequence. Standard work charts are used to standardize processes, reduce variability, and improve efficiency.
9. Takt time versus actual cycle time: Takt time is the rate at which a process must be completed to meet customer demand, while actual cycle time is the time required to complete a process. Visual management tools can be used to monitor and compare takt time versus actual cycle time, helping to identify areas where improvements can be made. By reducing the gap between takt time and actual cycle time, teams can improve efficiency and ensure that they are meeting customer demand.
10. Kanban: Kanban is a visual management technique used to control inventory and production. It involves using cards or other visual signals to indicate the need for inventory or production, and to trigger the appropriate action.
Common Mistakes in the Application of Visual Management
While visual management can be a powerful tool for improving processes and communication, there are some common mistakes that organizations may make when applying it. These mistakes can undermine the effectiveness of visual management and prevent it from achieving its full potential. Some common mistakes include:
1. Focusing on the form rather than the function: It is important to remember that the purpose of visual management is to improve processes and communication. Some organizations may focus too much on creating visually appealing charts and displays, rather than designing visual aids that are effective at communicating information and identifying areas for improvement.
2. Using visual aids as a substitute for critical thinking: Visual management should be used as a tool to support critical thinking and problem-solving, not as a replacement for it. Some organizations may rely too heavily on visual aids to guide decision-making, rather than using them as a tool to facilitate analysis and discussion.
3. Neglecting to update visual aids: Visual aids should be regularly updated to reflect changes in processes or to address new problems as they arise. Neglecting to update visual aids can lead to confusion and errors, and can prevent visual management from being an effective tool for process improvement.
4. Failing to involve all stakeholders: Visual management is most effective when all stakeholders are involved in the process. This includes frontline workers, supervisors, managers, and other stakeholders who may have valuable insights into the processes being analyzed. Failing to involve all stakeholders can lead to incomplete or inaccurate analysis, and can prevent visual management from achieving its full potential.
5. Using visual aids in isolation: Visual aids should be used in conjunction with other tools and techniques, such as data analysis and process mapping. Using visual aids in isolation can lead to incomplete or inaccurate analysis, and can prevent visual management from being an effective tool for process improvement.
Best Practices for Visual Management
Visual management can be a powerful tool for improving processes, communication, and collaboration. To ensure its effectiveness, it is important to follow best practices for visual management. Some of these best practices include:
1. Identify the objective: Clearly define the objective of the visual management system, and ensure that it is aligned with the overall goals and objectives of the organization. This will help to ensure that the visual management system is focused on the right areas and is effective in achieving its goals.
2. Involve stakeholders: Involve all stakeholders in the design and implementation of the visual management system. This includes frontline workers, supervisors, managers, and other stakeholders who may have valuable insights into the processes being analyzed. This will help to ensure that the visual management system is relevant, accurate, and effective.
3. Use simple and clear visual aids: Use simple and clear visual aids that are easy to understand and interpret. Avoid clutter and unnecessary complexity, as this can hinder communication and comprehension.
4. Use standardized visual aids: Use standardized visual aids to ensure consistency and accuracy across the organization. This will help to ensure that everyone is using the same language and terminology, and will make it easier to compare and analyze data.
5. Regularly update visual aids: Regularly update visual aids to reflect changes in processes or to address new problems as they arise. Neglecting to update visual aids can lead to confusion and errors, and can prevent visual management from being an effective tool for process improvement.
6. Use visual aids in conjunction with other tools and techniques: Use visual aids in conjunction with other tools and techniques, such as data analysis and process mapping. Using visual aids in isolation can lead to incomplete or inaccurate analysis, and can prevent visual management from being an effective tool for process improvement.
7. Provide training and support: Provide training and support to ensure that all stakeholders understand how to use the visual management system effectively. This will help to ensure that the visual management system is being used correctly and that all stakeholders are able to contribute to its success.
In conclusion, visual management can be a game-changer for organizations looking to improve their performance and achieve their objectives. By creating a culture of transparency, alignment, and continuous improvement, organizations can enhance their productivity, efficiency, and quality, and stay ahead of the competition. However, to reap the full benefits of visual management, it is important to follow best practices and avoid common mistakes in its implementation. By doing so, organizations can ensure that their visual management system is effective, efficient, and sustainable, and can drive long-term success.
Article by Allan Ung, Principal Consultant at Operational Excellence Consulting, a Singapore-based management consultancy firm that assists organizations in maximizing customer value and minimizing wastes through adoption of Design Thinking and Lean Thinking practices. For more information, please visit www.oeconsulting.com.sg