Any facility that is considering implementing lean strategies into their workflow, will want to take a moment to look at how visual triggers can help support lean initiatives. The lean strategies are all about eliminating waste, doing things efficiently and having an environment which supports constant improvement. This requires that a lot of information be passed from person to person or from a given environment to the people working in it. The fastest way to pass this information is typically through the use of visual cues.
While some facilities try to use visual thinking strategies as a part of the lean methodology, it is actually entirely separate. It is an outside strategy which can be used to support lean, but it really isn’t the same thing at all. Lean is about how things are done. How the manufacturing processed is pulled through from the very first step until the product is completed and delivered to customers. Visual, on the other hand, is more about how specific information is gathered and conveyed to people who are working in and around a given area.
What is Visual in the Workplace?
Visual thinking isn’t just a set of concepts or procedures. Things like visual signs, floor tape and other things which pass information visually are simply the tools used as a result of visual thinking. The actual thinking process involves the consideration and discussion of how to most efficiently and accurately convey information in any given environment.
One example of this would be in a situation where there is the danger of items falling from a high shelf. The most accurate way to share this information would be to post a detailed report about what is stored on the shelves, what may cause it to fall, and how to protect yourself. Of course, this isn’t practical because this isn’t the most efficient way to share the information. Visual thinking will indicate that it is far better to simply have a well recognized image of a person with an item falling from above. This is universally recognized as a sign which indicates the danger of falling items.
The example is extremely simple, and uses common sense, but there are dozens of different situations in any given facility which can benefit from visual thinking. Understanding how to best communicate information in a fast and accurate manner, is really at the heart of visual thinking. When done properly, it can allow lean initiatives to be implemented much more quickly and successfully.
When just getting ready to implement the lean methodology for a company, using visual thinking to help ensure it goes as smoothly as possible is important. Companies will be providing a lot of changes and new information to people at all levels, and the better this information is shared, the better the implementation will go.
Taking the time to use visual thinking will help identify how people will best absorb the information being shared, and where it should be posted. Whether it is a series of info graphics sent out by email, or signs posted in the hallway, or any other option, visual thinking is a key tool for anyone attempting to implement or expand lean strategies.