The Visual Workplace

The need for continuing improvement in the workplace grew over the years with new methods and systems introduced by organizational experts. One hugely appreciated initiative is the “visual workplace”, which is used as both guide and key performance measurement in many companies, businesses and industries. The idea behind a visual workplace is that it helps boost performance and achieve optimum output. On the other hand, its implementation results in a decrease in motion and lead times, as well as a reduction in changeover times.

As an operational imperative, having a visual workplace means defeating waste, and hitting the scheduled goals on time. For experts in the field of operational organization, the visual workplace is all about having a system in place that is self-ordering and self-explanatory. Processes are understood, carried on and regulated through visual aids. At the same time, such a system is constantly self-improving so that inefficient aspects of any process are eliminated, and they are replaced with more workable, cost-efficient and safer measures.

Understanding the Terms

For many organizations, implementing a visual workplace as a system is an add-on to their already existing improvement initiatives. For the most part, their chosen method would be Lean or the Six Sigma. What many groups fail to see is that in itself, the visual workplace IS already considered an improvement effort. Meaning, it is a proven stand-alone initiative that, when properly implemented, can greatly help the organization achieve its goals for workplace management, safety efforts, production targets and improvement in performance.

The term in itself – Visual Workplace – puts forward a goal and a wide space for how it could be achieved. The idea of functionality is already in there where when a workplace is visual, then it works better and safer, for a shorter period and with less waste. Once a person steps into any visual workplace setting, they can see everything they need to understand the processes. Through what the person sees, he or she is able to understand the information and messages being delivered, including the answers to how, why, where, who, what and when. The visual workplace is largely considered transparent and self-explanatory where directions, processes and systems are readily available for employees and clients.

Understanding How It Works

The outcomes of the visual workplace are many. Work or services are performed or delivered efficiently, and specific goals for each process are achieved. This is achieved when items or mechanisms are designed and then placed properly so that they direct the routines of the employees. At the same time, such visual devices aid the clients’ or customers’ behavior – with very little need for actual verbal exchange. Where there would be queries, clarifications and other strings of communicating information, the visual workplace makes use of images to convey all of the messages that need to be known.

In a visual workplace, there are devices that translate the information that tells of the transactions, routines and assignments. They have visible meanings that are the actual instructions or directions. These meanings are the ones that tell what to do.

Four usual examples of the visual devices are showing status, the sharing of work priorities, eliminating or preventing defects and process problems, and providing easy and safe access. For the showing of status visual device, it tells the employees what to work on and the equipment, tools or group they would work with to accomplish a task. The next, which is more of a diagram, is the sharing of work priorities. In a glance, it displays the order of work to be accomplished. The most critical or top priority is colored or marked accordingly, and the rest of the priorities come with corresponding colors or marks as well. On the other hand, the visual devices tell of how to prevent defects, dangers or potential work disruptions. Finally, there are the visual aids, which speaks directly of providing access to the employees, the public and the vehicles. These devices come in forms of tapes, colored paint, symbols and stand-alone signs, and each one instructs about flow, directions, specific areas to pass or avoid, etc.

Attaining Consistency with Implementation

The most common issue with the visual workplace is the ever-changing setups at work. It could be the variations in physical arrangement, production schedules, alteration in processes or methods, or new workers. With such change, there must be an immediate and appropriate change in the visual devices as well. The changes could come every day, so it means an equivalent amount of work to ensure that the visual devices are kept current and accurate.

When information is missing or wrongly placed, the employees would be confused. To clarify matters, they would ask questions. So you see, when key information is not correct, is missing or outdated, the exact opposite of a productive and efficient visual workplace happens. The organization will then experience losses because of substandard output, late deliveries and long lead times. More so, it can be expected that there’s a tragic number in workplace accidents and injuries, along with damage in equipment, vehicles and the materials used in production.

All that said, it is important that the visual workplace practice is implemented consistently. In this way, the employees can efficiently carry on their roles and organizational targets are always met. There would, no doubt, be excellent quality output, with very minimal losses in terms of costs and expenses. The physical work environment would not just have a meaningful purpose and courses of action, but it will be kept safe, secure and hazard-free for the workers to give optimum performance.

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