If visual controls are supposed to provide information is at a glance, why did we spend so much time talking about them? At the last SIG we had to impose strict time limits on each company so that everyone could have a chance to share slides of their visual controls with the group.
There was a huge variety of visual controls, in production areas as well as for safety and human resources functions. We were shown floor decals, magnets applied to metal waste barrels (and to racking, status boards, work assignment boards, and CI tracking boards). There were many versions of thermometer posters, which tracked injuries, quality, and production among other things. We saw a fair number of white boards, from custom-made tracking boards to homemade versions made from plexiglass that covered easily removable paper inserts. Shadow boards, peg boards, foam toolbox organizers, paint, and vertical benches kept equipment organized. Posters were used effectively. And of course, since it’s 2017, there were examples of electronic visual controls.
If it wasn’t enough to see all the variations on VC, our members were generous in sharing the lessons that they had learned in implementing visual controls in their facilities. One lesson learned was that in many cases there needed to be some context in time. It was often helpful to compare current conditions to conditions in the recent past, and one member was planning to incorporate future information in the form of goals to their control boards.
Some members really liked analog controls, while others were in the process of converting to digital controls so that they could manipulate the data later. Many members were planning to add more screens to their production floor, but another member found that their boards were being used unevenly, and fixed the problem by adding morning meetings. At that point another member mentioned that their facility found daily meetings to be too depressing and switched to weekly meetings with an increase in the board’s utility.
Company culture touched on other aspects of visual controls as well. Participants felt that the implementation of visual controls is more difficult in a company culture that is used to keeping information close and not sharing it. Training in the use and interpretation of the VC is also necessary. One member trained the managers to use the boards, expecting that they would train their subordinates. That did not happen, so they now train everybody themselves.
There were many takeaways for designing new visual controls:
- Start small. Don’t track so much information that it is not used.
- The supervisors and managers have to be seen to use the data.
- The workers need to be the ones to create the information on the boards.
- The workers should be the ones to design the boards.
- Colour is better than data.
- If the board ain’t broke don’t fix it.
- More than the designer of the control should be able to understand it.
- The information should be helpful and incorporated into daily work.
A new SIG season is starting up. Be sure to sign up early to attend the sessions so that you can see and hear all the details. Remember, you can attend SIGS in neighbouring consortiums if it suits you. Contact your FSA to be added to those mailing lists as well.
Thank you to our host, Mancor Canada Inc.!