Visual Management

Visual Management - Visualization as a tool for better processes


We humans are in contact with visualizations every day. Whether it's advertising on billboards, traffic lights in the street or display boards at the train station - visualizations are part of everyday life and are perceived partly more, partly less consciously.

However, they all have one thing in common: they convey information in a way that is as simple and easy to understand as 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 manage production processes and develop an understanding of what employees are doing.

With the help of visual management, both managers and employees can directly gain an 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 show possible deviations and problems and to make them immediately visible to the employees. In visual management, various methods are available for this purpose, which also pursue quite diverse objectives.

For example, the individual techniques may focus on the following:

- Information for employees

- Display of problems or deviations from the actual status

- Promotion of identification with the company

- Motivation of the employees

Visual Management Methods

Visual Management uses - as already mentioned - 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 used.

5S method

The 5S method pursues the goal of keeping the workplace and environment clean and orderly. This is to ensure that the work process is as undisturbed as possible.

5S stands for

S(sorting out the unnecessary and selecting)
Systematize (arrange tasks as well as tools and create space)
Scleaning (cleaning of workplace and equipment, disposal of waste)
Sstandardisation (definition of standards, regular repetition of certain steps)
Sself-discipline (maintaining and optimizing order and organization)

and originates from Japan. Here at Toyota, the 5S method 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 on Lean Management.

Visual Management Board

On a visual management or KanBan board, all information about a project can be found at a glance. By means of subdivisions (e.g. "currently being processed", "completed"), priorities can be displayed effortlessly with the help of colors or other signs. Thus, such a board facilitates the work of every team member.

The biggest advantage of a visual board is to save time and to show information in an easily understandable way, e.g. which team member is responsible for which tasks and where necessary information can be found. The board also helps to identify possible bottlenecks, eliminate them and thus optimize the work process.


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

This procedure is followed for each operation.

This is a just-in-time principle in which inventories 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, which documents and reports back the material withdrawal and production. The result is a self-organizing system that minimizes warehousing, 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

Kanban cards can be used to visualize the flow of work. The classic model works with columns that - ordered from left to right - show the respective status:

- left column - To Do: list 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 be able to fully exploit the advantages of the method:

Clear rules:
All rules governing 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, coordination on the number of tasks is required.

A continuous workflow must be ensured. This means that tasks must always be in progress.

Continuous improvement process:
To improve efficient operation, Kanban processes must be analyzed regularly.

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

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

Further methods of visual management

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

- andon
- A3 reports
- Ishikawa diagram


The term "andon" also comes from Japanese and means something like "(paper) lamp". The origin of this method lies in a visual signal that was used in the Toyota production system in the form of a signal lamp on machines 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 takes place:

Andon cords are a type of rip cord (e.g. a button) for stopping a machine by the operator. This can be compared to an emergency stop button on ski lifts. When this cord is pulled, a signal is triggered and an employee rushes over to assist and fix the problem.

Andon Boards
An andon board is an illuminated display that provides information on the status of a fault. It can be triggered manually or automatically. Afterwards a visual signal appears, which shows the status of the production system. Subsequently, a predefined process chain is triggered.

A3 reports

The A3 method is a document template in the form of a form. It is used to identify and find solutions to 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 identify problems themselves, to analyse them and to find a solution.

In doing so, the A3 report ensures transparency of the thought 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's goal for all employees involved in the process in order to make the problem comprehensible as well as the reason for the intended problem solution.

Current Situation:
Description of the current state with detailed facts (e.g. in the form of easy-to-understand graphic elements) to illustrate the problem (including place of origin, hurdles, elimination).

Target State:
The target state must be clearly defined as the goal. This facilitates the implementation of a wide variety of measures to remedy problems, and effective solutions can be brought about.

Root Cause Analysis:
By means of certain diagrams, the causes of a problem as well as the resulting actual state can be shown. All interrelationships are clearly presented. In this way, all those involved can also understand them and work out correspondingly effective measures to remedy the problems. The aim of the root cause analysis is to identify direct factors influencing the problem and to eliminate the core causes.

Measures are specified and justified which are intended to eliminate the causes of the problem and improve the current situation in the long term. The five W-questions should enable a clear and unambiguous presentation.

Impact on Success:
In this step, the success of the various measures and their contribution to achieving the goal is determined. Quantification on the basis of key figures proves to be useful; the change is presented in a comprehensible way by means of a before-and-after comparison.

Standardization 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. With the help of knowledge management, ways are also defined that make all experiences and findings transferable to other processes and working methods.

Ishikawa diagram

The Ishikawa diagram (fishbone diagram, cause-effect diagram) graphically represents the relationship between cause and the effect (positive or negative) based on it. The diagram pursues the goal of identifying all causes and depicting possible interdependencies between them.

The Ishikawa method was developed in the context of quality management to analyse the causes of quality defects. 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. elaboration of primary and secondary causes

3. check for completeness

4. cause evaluation

5. checking for correctness and deriving measures

What are the advantages of Visual Management?

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

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

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

Limits of visual management

Despite the advantages, visual signals also have certain limitations:

- no complex statements possible
- Receivers sometimes ignore too many visual signals
- visual signals must comply with standards so that everyone understands them


Conclusion on Visual Management

Visual management can optimally support communication between all participants in a project. It is suitable for a quick overview of all (also time-critical) processes and helps to exchange information in a simple way.

Visual management can be applied to a wide variety of work areas. Good visualization helps to ensure that potential problems and errors are detected without delay and corrected immediately.

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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