Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Guest Post: How To Use Lean Visuals To Improve Performance

Today I am pleased to bring you an article from Mike Pedro, who blogs at Magnatag. Mike's shares 3 key ways to make the most of your Lean visuals from personal experience. A visual workplace supports employee engagement and continuous improvement.

Implementing lean visuals into your organization is one of the best things you can do to improve and motivate your team’s performance.  Visuals keep everyone on your team informed and thereby involved with daily operations. Gwendolyn Galsworth, an expert in lean visualization, says that the visual workplace is more than just surrounding ourselves with posters and signs, its about making the language of lean production visual. In her article, “The value of vision: the language of lean production is self-ordering and self-improving”, Galsworth elaborates upon this idea further, stating:

“A visual workplace is a self-ordering, self-explaining, self-regulating, and self-improving work environment where what is supposed to happen happens on time, every time, because of visual devices… There is one simple reason why a visual workplace is needed: People have too many questions”.

So you may be asking yourself, “If the purpose of utilizing lean visuals is to inform and motivate my employees, how can I ensure its working?” In an attempt to answer this question, we’ll cover some tried-and-true methods that can help you make the most of your lean visual system.

Keep visuals as close to their point of use as possible

Lean visuals are designed to be precise, coherent, and motivating. Yet if we fail to implement these indicators properly, their value quickly diminishes. Lean visuals should always be placed in an area that makes sense to your employees; if you plan to implement a safety display board within your production facility, you should display it in an area that sees a lot of traffic throughout the day. Employees will now engage with the board, thus creating a collaborative effort to keep your workplace safe. I’ve seen far too many safety managers simply tuck a safety display board within their own office—that simply does not work. Sure, it may be a nice visual indicator to have at your convenience, but it fails to be an active tool for engagement with your staff.

Ensure that your entire workforce is on board

If there was ever a surefire way to ensure the success of a lean manufacturing movement, this would have to be it. Leading a successful charge in lean production starts with employee engagement—you have to be able to establish a connection between management and employees—without that, you’re destined for failure. Leadership is truly fundamental when implementing a lean program. Perhaps the best way to establish this connection is by hosting a company meeting, laying out the foundation of your lean process, and allowing employees to express their questions and concerns. In turn, you may find dialogue open up in regards to the types of programs you are implementing, providing you with a more profound understanding of what needs to be done to guarantee the success of your lean process.

Set up a strong list of goals

Having lean visuals in your production facility is great, but you must have an idea of what purpose they will serve. The ultimate goal of implementing a lean program within your production facility is to improve upon company costs and manufacturing efficiency.  Setting up goals for your team not only provides you with an idea of how your lean program is preforming, but also serves as a motivating factor for every member of your team. Here’s a tip on setting up goals for lean production; your goals should always be believable, measurable, challenging, and set within a deadline.

The key to making the most out of you lean visuals isn’t having the best looking image or even having the highest-rated display board at your disposal—it’s all about preparedness. If you are not ready to implement a lean system in your factory, there is a strong likelihood that the processes wont succeed. Implementing a lean way of thinking into your production facility should be treated with extreme caution. If done poorly, a failed attempt at creating a lean environment could prove to be demoralizing step backwards for your company. So I urge you to precede with caution my friend; the journey into lean is one that is often traveled, but difficult to master.

About the Author: Mike Pedro joined the Magnatag Visible Systems team right after graduating from St. John Fisher College. He’s an expert when it comes to the ins and outs of scheduling, communication, productivity and lean visuals. He is also editor of Magnatag Insight (

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