Visual Controls

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Visual Controls - short version

Any devices that help operators quickly and accurately gauge production status at a glance. Progress indicators and problem indicators help assemblers see when production is ahead, behind or on schedule. They allow everyone to instantly see the group's performance and increase the sense of ownership in the area. Also see "andon board," "kanban," "production board," "painted floor" and "shadow board."

Visual Controls - long version

Visual control is a technique employed in many places where information is communicated by using visual signals instead of texts or other written instructions. The design is deliberate in allowing quick recognition of the information being communicated, in order to increase efficiency and clarity. These signals can be of many forms, from different coloured clothing for different teams, to focusing measures upon the size of the problem and not the size of the activity, to kanban and heijunka boxes and many other diverse examples. In the Toyota Way, it is also known as mieruka.

Visual control are means, devices, or mechanisms that are designed to manage or control the operations (processes) so as to meet the following purposes:

* make the problems, abnormalities, or deviation from standards visible to everyone and thus corrective action can be taken immediately,

* display the operating or progress status in an easy to see format.

* provide instruction.

* convey information.

* provide immediate feedback to people.

Therefore it is the principle of increasing efficiency and effectiveness simply by deliberately making things visible. When things are visible, they are kept in conscious mind. It also serves to ensure that everyone has a common viewpoint of what is being displayed. Visual control (VC) is known in several other terms, visibility management, management by visibility, and management by sight. Some common Visual Applications:

* color-coded pipes and wires

* painted floor areas for good stock, scrap, trash, etc.

* shadow boards for parts and tools

* indicator lights

* workgroup display boards with charts, metrics, procedures, etc.

* production status boards

* direction of flow indicators

Visual control methods aim to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of a process by making the steps in that process more visible. The theory behind visual control is that if something is clearly visible or in plain sight, it is easy to remember and keep at the forefront of the mind. Another aspect of visual control is that everyone is given the same visual cues and so are likely to have the same vantage point. There are many different techniques that are used to apply visual control in the workplace.

Some companies use visual control as an organizational tool for materials. A clearly labeled storage board lets the employee know exactly where a tool belongs and what tools are missing from the display board. Another simple example of a common visual control is to have reminders posted on cubicle walls so that they remain in plain sight. Visual signs and signals communicate information that is needed to make effective decisions. These decisions may be safety oriented or they may give reminders as to what steps should be taken to resolve a problem.

Most companies use visual controls in one degree or another, many of them not even realizing that the visual controls that they are making have a name and a function in the workplace. Whether it is recognized by the name of "visual control" or not, the fact is that replacing text or number with graphics makes a set of information easier to understand with only a glance, making it a more efficient way of communicating a message.

Visual controls are designed to make the control and management of a company as simple as possible. This entails making problems, abnormalities, or deviations from standards visible to everyone. When these deviations are visible and apparent to all, corrective action can be taken to immediately correct these problems. Visual controls are meant to display the operating or progress status of a given operation in an easy to see format and also to provide instruction and to convey information. A visual control system must have an action component associated with it in the event that the visually represented procedures are not being followed in the real production process. Therefore visual controls must also have a component where immediate feedback is provided to workers.

There are two types of application in visual controls, displays and controls.

* A visual display relates information and data to employees in the area. For example, charts showing the monthly revenues of the company or a graphic depicting a certain type of quality issue that group members should be aware of.

* A visual control is intended to actually control or guide the action of the group members. Examples of controls are readily apparent in society: stop signs, handicap parking signs, no smoking signs, etc.

The purpose behind implementing visual control techniques is to expose abnormalities in the production line that could ultimately end up costing the company money or create waste. When visual control is able to do a good job at helping employees to recognize these abnormalities action can be taken to correct the problems, reduce manufacturing costs, reduce possible waste, shorten production lead time and thus keep the delivery due dates, reduce inventory, ensure a safe and comfortable working environment, and increase the company's profit.

Visual control systems are implemented with the expectation that thousands of location and operation details can be managed visually thus aiding the growth and quality of the company. An added benefit to visual control systems is that many of the visual controls used eliminate the need to verbally communicate a need. Instead needs and expectations are clearly displayed, eliminating the time often wasted on the confusion of miscommunication due to different methods of verbal communication.

With visual controls you can potentially create an atmosphere of production which is self-regulating and self-explanatory. Employees are comfortable because they clearly understand what is expected of them and so will be the managers. Customers are the ultimate beneficiaries of such efficiency when they consistently receive a high quality product. Potential Benefits of VC Implementing VC in the plant would help companies to exposing abnormalities, problems, deviations, waste, unevenness, and unreasonability to people, thus corrective actions can be taken immediately to:

* correct the problems

* reduce manufacturing costs and possible waste

* shorten production lead time and thus keep the delivery due date

* reduce inventory

* ensure a safe and comfortable working environment

* increase company's profit



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