There is no doubt that effective use of Visual Management tools and techniques can offer businesses significant benefit.

Visual representation of processes and status make things clear to the workforce, ensuring that anyone who walks into the business can understand performance at a glance.

The use of Visual Management is widespread from factories to offices. Success, however, is not guaranteed simply by using the technique and it is still possible for it to be ineffective (often through a scatter gun approach – “lets use the technique for everything and see what works” or in its execution “I’m not sure what this sign is supposed to tell me”).

One deployment of visual management often used in factories is the production control board or production display board as it is sometimes called. These are typically dry wipe or digital displays that convey visual information regarding the production and typically state:

• Production targets
• Performance
• Key Issues
• Current Production status

They can be highly effective in communicating information but they are not without issues which can be alleviated through careful consideration during the deployment. Remember that visual management in this sense is a tool and success is not guaranteed simply by using them. Consider these common issues using production display boards Visual management techniques when deploying the technique in your workplace.

1/ Production boards contain incorrect / outdated information

Presenting outdated or inaccurate data is a key reason for production boards to fail. The key purpose for these boards is to display the current status. Outdated or incorrect data leads to disinterested workers and a lack of trust. In many instances production boards track production against the process steps, if the process presented is inaccurate or outdated buy in by the workforce will be difficult to obtain.

2/ Unclear communication / priorities not known

It’s important to consider what message you are sending through the production board. The workforce needs to quickly assimilate the information you are putting accross and be able to act on it. If they have to interpret your message or if priorities are unclear the workforce may act incorrectly.

3/ Complex production board layout leads to confusion

Consider carefully, what you place on your production board and how it is laid out. The layout should be uncluttered and data should be complete in order that you don’t need to go somewhere else for the complete story. Ensure that all information presented has a reason for being there and avoid layouts that require interpretation and confusion.

4/ Production board communicates information that is not relevant to the task

Do not present information for information’s sake. Ensure that information is relevant to the task and is both useful and current. For example displaying that the production task is at step 4 of 8 is useful – displaying the dates of a works social event is not. Keep the information focussed and in context.

5/ Information presented does not drive change or improvement

Your production boards should drive action. For example being clear on setting the performance targets and current production status shows a clear action on build quantity. Use your production boards as part of your plan do check act cycle. Use it as a place to convey trends or issues that can be worked on.

Summary

Visual management is used in a variety of ways. Production control boards / display boards can be a powerful tool and conveying information in a quick and timely fashion. They can reduce the time required for meetings by communicating key information in a timely and effective method.

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