Digital visual management a Lean Management practice

When incorporating Lean Management, it is necessary to implement a digital visual management approach. In an increasingly digital world where companies need data in real-time, traditional visual management is becoming obsolete. Managers need real-time data to implement actions. Whiteboards are not as effective as a digital screen to distribute information quickly. That is why, through these new display options, we refer to digital visual management.

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What is visual management?

Visual management is a collection of vision-based communication techniques. This method makes it easier to transmit information, allowing anyone to identify if a situation is normal or abnormal in a working zone. This makes it possible to identify anomalies and to see if operators are handling these problems. Visual management aims to quickly view relevant indicators for a department or shop floor to be able to effectively manage different activities.

This is a method used in the Toyota Production System which is found through a variety of Lean tools. For example, Kanban, Six Sigma and PDCA are all based on visual management. The latter is a hands-on management method, as it helps everyone get involved based on vision, knowledge and action.

Once put in place, the aim of visual management is to make decisions more quickly, facilitate internal communication or expedite information flows. For example, in industry, visual management can be used to communicate regarding safety guidelines. This method is part of a Lean approach, as the aim is to continually improve performance using an indicator

What is a performance indicator?

A KPI is a key performance indicator. The aim is simple: to continually measure data which is important to a company. This measurement provides statistics on a company’s progress or objectives to be achieved. If the figure declines, performance indicators help guide actions to be put in place.

These KPIs must be easily accessible and visible to all. This means they are commonly used in visual management to guide managers with their action plans. They are displayed on notice boards to track them easily.

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Visual management tools

Visual management can be established in all business sectors. For example, we can find these management methods in industry, food processing with stainless steel tools, internal services, training centres or distribution. Regardless of the company and its business, this type of management is extremely powerful. Here are the most well-known visual management tools.

Kanban: visual stock management

Kanban is one of the most popular Lean tools along with the 5S, as they are two effective and easy-to-implement tools within an organisation. The Japanese term can be translated as “label”, as it refers to a stock management method using cards. This methodology was created by Taiichi Ohno and implemented by Toyota in the 1950s.

Kanban is used to balance supply and demand using a card which accompanies each part batch. This label is a strong visual sign indicating when and how many should be produced. This method is based on just-in-time production and pull flow management.
The Kanban method is used to streamline stock and outstanding items using visual organisation.

Organising ideas with Mind Mapping

Mind Mapping is a tool used to organise one’s ideas. The map is created as ideas emerge. This mental map is frequently used during meetings or brainstorming sessions. As a result, the main purpose of this tool is to quickly and easily view information. This makes communication smoother and ideas more visual. This is notably because the elements are organised using colours, sections or images.

Mind Mapping is commonly used in a Lean Office with communication materials like whiteboards.

Obeya is a process used to manage Lean projects.

The term Obeya is Japanese, and means “large room”. This name is no accident, as this Lean methodology involves a team in a large room. The aim of Obeya is to gather the members of a team in the same room on a daily basis. This room is unusual as the walls are covered with large whiteboards. Called the Obeya Room, this room offers the resources to manage a project in the best conditions.

But what are all these partitions used for? The latter are used to create PDCA, flow maps (VSM), mental maps, etc. But above all, the Obeya is used to control the most important indicators in terms of project management: quality, cost, deadlines. This working methodology is a clear part of visual management.