There has been a lot of ink spilled writing about visual workplaces, but who has time to read all of it? Who has the desire to wade through books and articles on this subject looking for nuggets of interest or wisdom? We do! We would! Based on our survey of the literature, here are five compelling quotations about creating a more visually oriented workplace.
#5: More than spring cleaning
“Most companies approach workplace organization in the same way many homeowners do. They clean up and organize only when they have guests coming or during their annual spring cleaning. They never realize the day-to-day benefits of 5S [a five-step method for organizing a workplace and making it more visually oriented]: less searching, decreased walking and motion, reduced downtime, fewer safety hazards and accidents, improved flow, fewer mistakes and better utilization of space. These daily benefits add up to yearly improvements in productivity, quality, cost, delivery, safety and morale.”
–Christopher D. Chapman[i]
Our take: Mr. Chapman, of the Center for Integrated Manufacturing Studies at Rochester Institute of Technology, is spot on. Companies often do not realize the quantifiable rewards of keeping their house (so to speak) in order.
#4: A workplace should answer questions
“There is one simple reason why a visual workplace is needed: People have too many questions. Most of these questions are not asked…. And when people don’t get their questions answered, they generally don’t do anything or they make up an answer. Sometimes that is a good thing for the company, but more often it is not. Visuality in the workplace ensures that the answers to vital questions are installed enduringly by design into the work environment….”
Our take: Dr. Galsworth, one of the leading experts on visual workplaces, keeps things basic here in pointing out the tremendous value of having a visual workplace: such a workplace answers questions. Unasked questions lead to confusion or, worse, mistakes. She goes on to say that if a question needs to be asked out loud, efficiency is lost. Most workers take several minutes to regain concentration after being disrupted by a question.
#3: Visual devices are everywhere
“Drivers and pedestrians have street signs, traffic signals, flashing lights and road markers. When shopping in certain stores, we can tell from some type of visual signal which checkout lanes are open. When boarding trains or buses, we look for signs to assure we are headed in the right direction…. [M]ost factories have [likewise] incorporated visuals in their processes as part of getting lean and with the objective of making things easier for everyone.”
Our take: As Mr. Chaneski of the New Jersey Institute of Technology observes in Modern Machine Shop, visual devices abound in everyday life. Just as visual displays can make grocery store checkouts function more smoothly, they can also alleviate bumps or inefficiencies in production processes.
#2: What a visual workplace is
“We’ll start by defining a visual workplace: A visual workplace is self-ordering, self-explaining, self-regulating, and self-improving; where what is supposed to happen does happen, on time, every time, day or night—because of visual devices.”
Our take: This is another one from Dr. Galsworth, and it is probably the most often quoted statement in the visual workplace literature. Her idea-packed definition sums up how visual devices keep operations on track.
#1: A portrait of a nonvisual factory
“Imagine a factory filled with equipment operators who do not mind working amidst dirt, debris, and oil. People working in this factory consider the search for parts, dies, and tools a part of their jobs. Workers who know where to look for missing items are highly valued…. These conditions indicate a factory that produces far too many defective goods, that misses far too many delivery deadlines, and that suffers from low productivity and morale. It is obvious that such a factory has failed to implement [5S].”
– H. Hirano[v]
Our take: H. Hirano, a business management expert and author of the book 5 Pillars of the Visual Workplace, provides a compelling “before” picture of a factory that desperately needs to become better organized and more visually informative.
[i] C. D. Chapman, “Clean House With Lean 5S,” Quality Progress 38 (2005): 27.
[ii] G. Galsworth, “The Visual Workplace,” Printing Industries of America, the Magazine 3 (2011): 14.
[iii] W. S. Chaneski, “The Visual Factory,” Modern Machine Shop 86 (2014): 34, 36.
[iv] G. Galsworth, Work That Makes Sense: Operator-Led Visuality (Portland, Oregon: Visual-Lean Enterprise Press, 2011), 6.
[v] H. Hirano, 5 Pillars of the Visual Workplace: The Sourcebook for 5S Implementation (New York: Productivity Press, 1995), 13.