Visual workplace

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  • Purpose

    • The purpose of creating a visual workplace is to provide simple, visual answers to questions such as:
      • What do I need to know to do this work safely and effectively?
      • What do I work on next?
      • Have I got everything I need?
      • How am I performing vs expectations for safety and output (quality & time)?
    • By providing visual answers to these questions at the “point of use”, the time wasted searching out these answers or correcting for wrong guesses is reduced.


    The components of the visual workplace are:

    Visual order

    • Workplace organisation – refer 5S

    Visual standards and displays

    • Visual standards assist operators to follow standardised work by providing simple visual instructions.
    • These include information on key work elements, safety and quality requirements, the correct work sequence and how the work is balanced between a team of operators. Photos are used to aid understanding and the work instructions are located conveniently for operators close to where the work is performed.
    • Visual displays are used to provide operators with information about production status (andon lights, kanban boards), quality concerns, process improvement projects, etc.

    Visual metrics and problem solving

    • Production boards are used by work teams to record actual vs expected output and record reasons for gaps. These are located in the work areas and “owned” by the teams.
    • Recording production in increments of one hour (or less) gives the team a sense of takt time (the rate of production required to meet customer requirements).
    • One of the most important features is to highlight the problems which lead to gaps in performance. These become the focus of problem solving by the work team and support functions.
    • Along with the use of production boards, I advocate using an improvement board to communicate the plan for continuous improvement and problem solving in the area.
    • Team members are trained in problem solving using simple tools (Plan Do Check Adjust, 5 whys, etc).
    • Support and management meet with the production teams on a regular basis to review opportunities for improvement and prioritise actions.

    Visual controls

    • Visual controls add a level of error proofing to a visual standard. A simple example would be adding foam cut outs to a shadow board so that you could only place the correct tool in the cut out area.
    • A downtime clock connected to Andon lights provides information quickly to support teams (ie red light for equipment breakdowns, orange light for quality issues, yellow light for material shortages).
    • A kanban board is a visual control that enables the team to determine what to work on next. Kanban cards on the board show quantities needed to be produced and Green/Yellow/Red zones on the board indicate how much inventory is on hand. Teams are able to prioritise which products to run based on the consumption of the downsteam processes.


    • It is easy to underestimate the impact of making things simple and visual before undertaking this activity. Providing information in an easily understandable format at the work areas gives operators more control over the process and answers common questions such as:
      • What do I do next?
      • How should the work be distributed between the team members?
      • What quality levels and work rate are expected?
      • Have we got all the information, materials and equipment we need?
      • How do I highlight issues and problems that interrupt the work?
    • The acid test for the visual workplace is whether you can go into the work area and quickly understand the current status. Problems are highlighted so that the support teams can assist.
    • The visual workplace reduces the time taken for new operators to get up to speed with the standard work. In workplaces facing high turnover or growth, operators getting up to speed quicker is a significant benefit.



    • Visual workplace, visual thinking by Gwendolyn Galsworth ISBN: 1-932516-01-8