visual management

Visual Management - Visualization as instruments for better processes


We humans are in daily contact with visualizations. No matter whether advertising on billboards, traffic lights in traffic or display boards at the train station - visualization is part of everyday life and is sometimes perceived more, sometimes less consciously.

However, they all have one thing in common: they convey information in the simplest, most comprehensible way possible. After all, the human brain can process images more intensively than words.

And it is precisely this ability that can actually be used in companies, can't it? Visual Management" deals with exactly this question and includes different approaches to the simple and understandable visual presentation of information.

What does Visual Management mean?


By definition, visual management is the use of visual aids to control production processes and develop an understanding of the activities of employees.

With the help of visual management, both managers and employees can get a direct overview of all important processes in the company.

According to Lean Management, a company should be as "lean" and organized as possible. The approaches of visual management are geared towards this.

What can be achieved with visual management?

The main task of visual management is to provide important information for all employees in the company. This can be visualizations from the areas of management, production or process control.

One of the main goals is to point out possible deviations and problems and to be able to make them visible to the employees immediately. In visual management, there are various methods available for this purpose, which also pursue quite diverse objectives.

The individual techniques can have the following focal points, among others:

- Information for employees

- Display of problems or deviations from the actual state

- Promotion of identification with the company

- Motivation of the employees

Visual management methods

As already mentioned, visual management uses quite different methods, which are also used in lean management.
The best known are the 5S method, the Visual Management Board and KanBan. In addition, other methods are also used.

5S Method

The 5S method aims to keep the workplace and environment clean and orderly. This is intended to ensure a working process that is as undisturbed as possible.

5S stands for

-• Slocate (sorting out the unnecessary and selecting)
-• SSystematize (arrange tasks and tools and create space)
-• Sclean up (cleaning of workplace and equipment, disposal of waste)
-• Sstandardise (defining standards, repeating certain steps regularly)
-• Selbstdisziplin (maintaining and optimizing order and organization)

and is originally from Japan. Here the 5S method at Toyota plays a key role in the production process. As part of Lean Management, 5S is only a fraction of the methods used at Toyota. Here you can find more Information about Lean Management.

visual management board

On a Visual Management or KanBan Board you can find all information about a project at a glance. Through subdivisions (e.g. into "currently in process", "completed"), priorities can be easily displayed with the help of colors or other characters. Thus, such a board facilitates the work of every team member.

The biggest advantage of a visual board is that it saves time and presents information in an easy to understand way, e.g. which team member is responsible for which tasks and where to find the necessary information. The board also helps to identify possible bottlenecks, to eliminate them and thus to optimize the work process.


KanBan" is also a method developed in Japan. The term means card. The Kanban method was developed in 1947 by Taiichi Ohno, the inventor of the production system of Toyota. It is used to organize multi-stage production processes that are linked together like control loops. Each individual control loop consists of a production stage and an upstream material store. The necessary material for each production process is then taken from the corresponding warehouse. The upstream production stage independently replenishes missing material.

This procedure is carried out for each operation.

This is a just-in-time principle, whereby stocks can always be reduced to the required quantity. The material flow moves from the starting material to the end product. In the counterflow, information flows in the form of Kan Ban information, which documents and reports the material withdrawal and production. The result is a self-organizing system that minimizes inventory, contributes to faster throughput times, optimizes production capacities and thus helps to reduce waste. As a result, the added value at each individual production stage can be controlled in a cost-optimized manner.

Visualization with kanban cards

With kanban cards the workflow can be visualized. The classic model works with columns which - ordered from left to right - display the respective status:

- left column - To Do: Listing of tasks still to be processed
- middle column - In Progress: Listing of started tasks
- right column - Done: List of completed tasks

The Kanban method is very flexible. Individual columns can be specifically adapted to the individual requirements of a project.

Rules and principles of Kanban

Kanban follows six principles. These should be observed in order to take full advantage of the method:

Clear rules:
All rules applicable to the process must be transparent and thus understood and implemented by all persons involved in the project.

Task limit:
There must be a limit to the number of cards available, a coordination with the number of tasks is necessary.

A continuous workflow must be ensured. Therefore, there must always be tasks in process.

Continuous improvement process:
In order to improve an efficient working method, Kanban processes must be analyzed regularly.

All employees involved in the project at all levels are responsible for maintaining the workflow and actively improving work processes.

A better understanding of processes and more efficient solutions can be achieved by using models.

Other methods of visual management

In addition to the methods already mentioned, the following approaches can also be considered:

- Andon
- A3 reports
- Ishikawa Diagram


Also the term "Andon" comes from the Japanese and means as much as "(paper) lamp". The origin of this method lies in a visual signal, which was used in the Toyota production system in the form of a signal lamp on machines and is intended to indicate irregularities and interruptions in the production process.

In visual management, a self-explanatory method was developed from this, which uses colour (green, yellow, red) and sometimes also sounds to draw attention to problems in production.

In this context, the development of Andon cords and Andon boards will follow:

Andon Cords
Andon cords are a kind of tear rope (e.g. a button) for stopping a machine by the operator. This is comparable to an emergency stop button on ski lifts. When this cord is pulled, a signal is triggered and an employee rushes to assist and solve the problem.

Andon Boards
An Andon board is an illuminated display that provides information about the status of an error. It can be triggered by human hand or automatically. Afterwards a visual signal appears, which shows the status of the production system. A predefined process chain is then triggered.

A3 reports

The A3 method is a document template in the form of a form. It is used to identify and solve problems in quality management. It contains texts as well as diagrams and other graphical representations. This is intended to enable a better understanding of interrelationships.

With this method, the people working on a project learn to recognise problems themselves, analyse them and find a solution.

The A3 report ensures transparency of the thinking process for problem solving.

The A3 report provides the following analysis steps:

Formulation of the problem as well as its effects in connection with the achievement of the company goal for all employees involved in the process to make the problem comprehensible as well as the reason for the intended problem solution.

Current situation:
Description of the actual state with detailed facts (e.g. in the form of easily understandable graphic elements) to illustrate the problem (including point of origin, obstacles, elimination).

Target status:
The target state must be clearly defined as the goal. This will facilitate the implementation of various measures to remedy problems and effective solutions can be achieved.

Cause analysis:
By means of certain diagrams, the causes of a problem and the resulting actual state can be shown. A clear presentation of all interrelationships is provided. This enables all parties involved to understand them and to work out effective measures to solve the problems. The aim of the root cause analysis is to identify factors directly influencing the problem and eliminate the core causes.

Measures are specified and justified, which should eliminate the causes of the problem and improve the current situation in the long term. Based on the five W questions, a clear and unambiguous presentation is to be made possible.

Effect of success:
This step involves determining the success of the various measures and their contribution to achieving the objective. A quantification based on key figures proves to be useful, and a before-and-after comparison is used to present the change in a comprehensible way.

Standardisation and follow-up:
The final step is an evaluation of the overall process. Measures are defined to standardize and ensure the improvements achieved and to drive them forward. In addition, knowledge management is used to determine ways in which all experiences and findings can be transferred to other processes and working methods.

Ishikawa Diagram

The Ishikawa diagram (fish bone diagram, cause-effect diagram) graphically represents the relationship between cause and the effect (positive or negative) based on it. The aim of the diagram is to identify all causes and to show possible interdependencies.

The Ishikawa method was developed within the framework of quality management in order to analyse the causes of quality deficiencies. In the meantime, the method can be transferred to various fields of application.

The diagram is created in five consecutive steps:

1. drawing the diagram and entering the main influencing variables

2. working out primary and secondary causes

3. check for completeness

4. cause evaluation

5. verification of correctness and derivation of measures

What advantages does Visual Management offer?

Compared to speech signals (written and spoken), visual signals offer the following advantages in communicating with people:

- direct integration into the design of affected objects
- fast acquisition becomes possible
- Signals can be understood intuitively
- no knowledge of a local language required
- even illiterate people understand the signals

Visual management can and should be used in every company to present information in a simple and transparent way. Because the phrase "out of sight, out of mind." Is in the nature of man. Thus, Visual Management can help to keep the overview of all tasks and thus become much more efficient and effective.

Limits of visual management

Despite the advantages, visual signals are also subject to certain limitations:

- No complex statements possible
- Receivers sometimes ignore too many visual signals
- visual signals must meet standards so that everyone can understand them


Conclusion on Visual Management

With visual management, communication between all participants in a project can be optimally supported. It is suitable for a quick overview of all (even time-critical) processes and helps to exchange information easily.

Visual management can be applied to a wide variety of work areas. A good visualization helps to identify potential problems and errors without delay and to solve them directly.

We are happy to support you in the introduction of visual management and the application of lean methods to optimize your processes.

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