Visual cues are important tools for keeping staff and visitors safe in industrial facilities, but there are multiple visual management system options for communicating hazards and requirements in any given location. How do you choose visual cues that work to improve safety or production methods? Explore these visual communication techniques used in industrial facilities and see how they improve facilities and processes, then choose the method—or combination of methods—that works for your location.
Benefits of Visual Communication Methods
Facilities and public locations implement visual cues because they are easier to understand, improve reaction time, provide a common message, and work with many types of communication strategies for better results. There are a few main methods for visual communication within industrial facilities and on production floors. Each has benefits and limitations, so choosing the right method for a facility is important. While instructions and cues should be clear and easy to understand, methods can be combined to work together to strengthen processes and improve safety.
Types of Visual Communication Systems
No matter the visual method used, the tools are often the same. Visual cues are often applied using floor tape, floor signs, posters, and virtual lines and signs. Physical barriers are ideal to improve safety at heights, for traffic control, and to increase pedestrian safety. Study these common visual communication methods to determine which is right for your facility.
5S Visual Management
The 5S visual management system puts the focus on five “pillars,” which are Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain. These pillars support a visual communication process to improve productivity and efficiency in the workplace.
The Lean method uses visual communication tools—posters, signs, bulletin boards, and other cues—to create easy-to-understand, at-a-glance process reminders for better organization, improved quality, and increased production capacity. While there may be multiple possible methods to complete production tasks, Lean streamlines processes and sets the standard for consistency. If each employee follows the same process, it reduces the chance of errors. This method is often implemented on production floors in manufacturing facilities and in busy warehouses.
Building off of the Lean and 5S frameworks, Six Sigma is a visual management system that pinpoints problem areas and implements procedures that improve efficiency. With Six Sigma’s visual tools, facility safety is improved. From visuals that put productivity on display to signs that warn of danger, Six Sigma visual cues provide important information at a glance: pallet stacking thresholds, pressure gauges, fall hazards, and “keep clear” notices all help communicate important messages through color, graphics, and text.
PDCA, which stands for Plan, Do, Check, Act, can help improve safety through a series of test-and-implement processes. While this isn’t exactly a communication method, the cycle focuses on identifying problems and adjusting for continuous improvement—making it an ideal complement to a facility-wide visual communication strategy.
Tips for Choosing and Implementing a Visual Communication Method
There is no one right method for every facility. Some facilities may even find that a combination of methods is best, versus one blanket solution. When it comes to choosing the right visual process or method combination, consider your location’s priorities based on the issues faced regularly.
- Has there been an increase in incident reports? If an audit or inspection turns up safety concerns, Lean and 5S methodologies may be used to streamline processes and implement the visual cues necessary to meet safety goals.
- Are there regular production line bottlenecks? This may point to an unclear process, too many steps, or too-complicated instructions. Audit processes to pinpoint problem areas. Then, implement or adjust visual cues following the Lean method—and ensure a robust training program is in place to keep up performance.
- Have quality issues become more common? Examine the manufacturing and shipping processes to pinpoint where the quality issues are introduced: If at the production line, it may be due to an outdated or unclear process; pallet damage in the warehouse may reveal forklift training or floor layout concerns; damage reported after the product has been in use may reveal that a supplier’s raw material quality has declined. Use the PDCA cycle to review processes and implement fixes—which may include installing Lean, 5S, or Six Sigma visual cues.
- Are processes being ignored or completed incorrectly? Look at the visual cues throughout the building: Is there a disconnect between training and process? All visual cues should match what’s included in the training and onboarding process. If the cues do not match, they must be updated. Determine the appropriate floor and wall markings, including tape and posters, to improve compliance.
- Does your location struggle with missing items or tools? If there are plenty of tools and supplies, but they’re often not easy to find, organizing using the Lean methodology may help. Lean focuses on eliminating waste—including time and energy wasted searching for tools and components. Leading an effort to sort, stock, organize, and ensure tools are put away when not in use can reduce time spent looking for items—staff will always know where to find them if they’re put away.
- Does clutter make navigation dangerous, or has the location been fined for blocked exits or egress routes? LEAN’s focus on organization may be ideal for improvement: Mark emergency exits and first aid stations with pre-cut floor marking kits that remind employees to keep areas clear, designate storage areas for everything from empty pallets and forklifts to trash bins, and offer reminders for storage best practices for items not currently in use to keep them out of the way.
No matter the method you choose, work within set color standards for clear, easy-to-understand directions. For even better visual communication, multi-lingual messages and graphics ensure directions are clear for all visitors, helping improve understanding to keep visitors and employees. For more tips for visual cues in industrial workplaces and advice for how to install selected floor markings, explore our Resource Center.