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Supply Chain Challenges, Warehouse Operations

Keeping Eyes on the Prize: The Benefits of Visual Management

Alex Stark | July 03, 2013

Keeping Eyes on the Prize: The Benefits of Visual Management

We all know that people learn in many different ways.  Some learn by reading books, some by following flow charts or instruction manuals, some by actually doing the task, and some by watching others. 

Visual management is another way to share important information with an individual or a team about the status of an objective or a responsibility, or to give direction so that the task is completed in the correct priority and in the most efficient manner possible. 

There is visual management all around us, yet most of us don't realize what it is.  A traffic light helps direct motorists when to stop, yield, or go.  It keeps order and ensures that the motorists are moving in a safe and efficient manner.  No smoking signs indicate that smoking is not allowed in a particular area.  Divided swim lanes allow for lap swimmers to get their exercise in a dedicated area of a pool.  A child's sticker calendar showing the chores completed is a way to keep them motivated to get the outcome you want achieved…especially a clean room.

Visual management is a technique that can be deployed in any environment to help an individual or team achieve the desired goals.  Information is communicated visually and allows for quick recognition which aids in the efficiency of response.  It can be in the form of charts, graphs, etc.  It can include special color designations (red is below goal, green is above goal, for example) to highlight key areas to drive performance.  A manager may not focus on the green topics as much as on any red topics that are below goal for immediate problem solving.     

In a distribution center environment, visual management can be used to track daily, weekly, or monthly KPI's.  It can be used to update order pickers on how many orders are in queue to pick, what's left for the day to hit the daily plan, or what orders may be falling behind.  Visual management is also a great way to track individual productivity by graphing associates moves per hour and posting them by shift.  And because safety is always the #1 priority, visual management can be used to keep safety on the forefront of everyone's minds by having a safety board with posted stats for "Days Safe" and for "Safety Topics of the Day."

Visual management is another way to align the team, ensure goals are clear and understood, improve communication and understanding, motivate and engage individuals in the process, and ultimately keep all eyes focused on the right prize.