Some of the comments often witnessed are:
· “Why do we need to do this?”
· “It’s extra work”
· “How are we going to maintain it?”
· “It’s just for the customers”
There are three really simple tricks to ensure that Visual Management is sustained within any workplace:
When commencing any visual management project, it is absolutely essential that the team of people who will maintain the system are involved from the start, this includes the initial specification and design of how the system will look. Very often this involvement is a workshop with the team, starting with an overview of the process, including a review of how the designs might look using large scale paper prints and providing an opportunity for the team to question and influence the design. However the real key point is the team need to understand WHY they are doing the process.
One of the principles of any Lean improvement activity is for the people to “Feel the Need”. The team need to understand why the company is embarking upon Visual Management. Here are a few common reasons for generating the “Need” in other manufacturing businesses:
· The company is wasting money through quality defects that are also impacting the company’s reputation.
· The company is failing on the delivery targets that the customer has requested.
· There is new competition entering the market, threatening the company’s market share.
· The cost to manufacture is increasing year on year and we are no longer profitable.
· Legislation has changed.
There are lots of reasons why a company may wish to start on a Lean continuous improvement activity, but most reasons are generated by the company needing to make improvements and it is really important that the team implementing the Visual management system understand this. It will help them feel a part of the process.
In the workshop, it is also important to make sure the ownership for each visual management board/process is agreed with the team, complete with a back up in place.
2. The next key step is “Keep it Simple”
I have seen many examples of Visual Management, but the best examples are the ones that keep it simple, they are generally the most effective and have the best chance of delivering real and sustainable improvements. People have a tendency of trying to solve everything when designing Visual Management and before long they have created an industry in just maintaining Visual Management. This is a common mistake.
There can also be a tendency to fill the Visual Management space with information taken from management reporting ‘packs’. This can soon become overbearing and the power of visual management can be lost. When information is there for the sake of it or to fill space, it can become a burden to maintain, it becomes a wasted process, therefore it goes against any Lean principles. It is important to remember that only information that is relevant to the team is displayed. It is also an important point to design the system so it can be updated at the point of display using whiteboard pens, (so minimise any need to walk to a computer to print something off).
Really good visual management should only take a few minutes to update and maintain.
3. Make it look good
Many companies try and cut back on the costs of visual management, they use tape to layout boards which can often look messy and unprofessional. Consider how this looks to the team of people who will use the system, does it look like the company is taking it seriously? In which case, why should the team take it seriously?
Setting up Visual management professionally and maintaining it so it looks good all the time is likely to ensure the team take the process seriously, in which case they are more likely to invest their time in really using it, it will help the team take a sense of pride in the system.
In summary, the 3 key steps work together and help ensure that a Visual Management system is successful and sustainable.
1. Involve the team from the start
2. Keep it simple
3. Make it look good
Final piece of important advice… Make sure that the Visual Management does not become expensive wallpaper.
Author: Kevin Storer
Since leaving Toyota, Kevin has worked for various companies on continuous improvement, Lean and quality improvement projects. Kevin was struggling to obtain the products he wanted to introduce into certain processes, so with his boss at the time and the consultant he was working with, they decided to make the products themselves. That was in 2008, and subsequently became Visual Management Technology Ltd.