4 Things You Didn't Know About Visual Management

Posted by Whitney Morris

We chatted with CEO Jim Lancaster about our Lean manufacturing and management system. In the early 1990s, Lantech became an early adopter of Lean, a process that eliminates waste and ultimately gives the customer the most value.

Visual Management Blog Image

Over the next several weeks, we'll share Jim’s experiences from his 20-year Lean journey. He’ll even tell us how he manages not to lose his car keys by implementing Lean principles at home. To kick things off, Jim explains why visual management is all about the person – whether it’s a marketing associate or an assembly mechanic – doing the work.

Visual management is a tool for the manager to give the operator what he needs to do his job. It’s about making the operator’s job more efficient, and to get them what they need to be successful. It lets us know we are OK for the day to produce a sales quote, part or blog post. Lantech’s departments – from marketing to the semi-automatic stretch wrapper line -- use customized whiteboards to visualize daily work chunks, deliverables and any roadblocks in the way of achieving those tasks.

It’s surprising how well visual management works once you have the process in place. Set the system up so you can immediately fix the issues that are in the way of the operator doing his job. When you do that, the improvement rate is huge. We want to identify problems and fix them before they grow into something worse. We were having a quality problem because a factory operator had a broken screwdriver. In this case, the operator damaged the screwdriver head when he was removing welding slag, a material byproduct of welding. His team was only budgeted two screw drivers per month and the last week of the month they were running out. The short term solution was to immediately get a new tool regardless of budget. And then we figured out why we were breaking screw drivers at an increased rate – the welding process was causing the slag.

If you use visual management as a weapon, then you’re going to get junk at the board. If the management system is set up to support the manager instead of the operator, you’re toast. It’s not about making the manager’s job more efficient. We design stretch wrappers, build them, install them and collect customers’ money. Three-fourths of our people – engineers, welders and assemblers – do that. The rest of us work for them, ensuring they can do that work effectively, safely at quality and cost standards. They make the money. My job as a manager is to support the people who actually do the work. Otherwise, I’m not needed.

Visual management gives operators an ongoing sense of purpose. This process eliminates frustration and allows operators to have the proper tools to successfully complete their daily tasks, which contributes to job satisfaction. Managers need to help their operators realize their potential and make the biggest contributions they can each day. 

Click here to watch Lantech's Allison Myers talk about our marketing team's visual management board.

Looking for other ways to improve? Check out our 10-Step Process for Damage Reduction Through More Effective Stretch Wrapping. Our process will show you:

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For more information, you can contact us on our website or call us at (502) 815-9109.

Click here to read last week's blog: Go for the Gold in the Shipping Olympics

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This post was published on February 19, 2014 and updated on July 31, 2017.

Topics: Lean Operations

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