Visual Controls

A Benchmarking Gemba To Demystify Visual Control Boards

Visual control boards may not look overly complex, but establishing an effective board and establishing a robust review cadence can be more challenging than initially anticipated.  The benefits, however, can be phenomenal!  We learned first hand what some of these benefits are during a recent visual control benchmarking gemba.

On 12 and 13 February, High Performance Leaders Inc. (HPL) facilitated a visual control board workshop for the Technology Team lead by Travis Vokey, VP and Head of Technology at Dream Unlimited.  The first day was a workshop focused on the key attributes of visual control boards, and a working session to begin defining the team’s value proposition and key performance metrics.  On the second day, there was a benchmarking gemba to Crystal Fountains, Baylis Medical, and Bell Mobility to see and learn first hand from their experiences and existing visual control boards.

Our focus during the benchmarking gemba was to see non-manufacturing areas.  Since there can be a stigma that visual control boards are only for manufacturing, we wanted IMG_20200213_1232410to see how different businesses, industries, and non-manufacturing teams set-up their boards and use them.  We saw boards used by Sales & Marketing, Product Design, Process Engineering, Equipment Engineering, Project Management, and yes one from Manufacturing.  We reviewed boards at the tier 1, 2, 3, and 4 levels, with tier 1 being at the working staff level and level 4 the organizational level.  Each host company had a representative appropriate for each level of board explain how their boards work and how they are used.

Dream---Control-board-BMThe Dream team was able to participate in a regular daily huddle in action while at Crystal Fountains.  It was fantastic to see and hear the enthusiasm and see the high level of engagement from each of the host company staff members.  They were all believers in visual boards.  However, that was not always the case.  When we asked an engineering team who was the biggest skeptic when they first introduced the boards, an engineer stepped forward and boldly said “Oh, that would have been me!”  He went on to explain that he first thought it would just be more work and a waste of time.  However, now he admits, the board and the daily huddle has improved communication and work distribution.  He’s now a believer!

IMG_20200213_1236595It was motivational to listen to each of the host company staff members talk about what they like about the boards and how they have made their jobs easier, improved team work, and driven solid improvements.  Here’s some of benefits and results they shared with the Dream team:

The boards and huddle have improved our cross-functional communications

We have much better visibility to unplanned work

Saves so much time and there’s less stress

Made us care about each others work, and we want to help each other

I know what’s going on now

It’s not about not being successful (when a target is missed), but rather what do you need to be successful

People feel empowered to get things done

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When properly established, visual control boards add value to both the teams and the leaders.  Laura Conquergood, VP of Operations at Baylis Medical said, “when I want an update on a project, we just go to the board.  We don’t schedule a meeting.”  Jongmu Lee, Director Creative Operations at Crystal Fountains said, “whether I’m in the building or not, I know the team is coming together and discussing important topics.”  Many of the team members and leaders at all 3 host companies similarly stated, that communications had improved and wasteful meetings had been dramatically reduced.

At Bell Mobility, the Regional Operations team is involved in over 2,000 projects across the country.  Approximately 8 years ago they started tracking key aspects of their projects using typical white board style visual control boards.  Then about 3 years ago they implemented digital boards (D-boards) to track and coordinate these massive projects between all stakeholders across the company.

According to Nitin Gautam, Network Access Manager and Robert Dillenbeck, Senior Manager, Territory Operations at Bell Mobility, the D-boards provided certain advantages over the traditional visual control boards including:

  • Reduced cycle times to update the boards and get information
  • Staff working remotely can keep informed through the D-boards and have better engagement and participation in meetings
  • Quicker access to graphs and all data
  • Easier to roll up information and data from tier 1 to tier 4 levels
  • Executives can retrieve updates and information without requiring meetings to obtain project status

In my opinion, D-boards should be implemented with extreme caution.  As discussed in a previous article Should Smart Screens Replace Pen & Paper on the Shop Floor?, D-boards can be problematic with potentially lowering visibility if they are not frequently and routinely interacted with becoming nothing more than a information board that over time can become virtually invisible.  The most concerning problem though, is that changes to what is tracked and displayed can be slow and costly to revise and continuously improve.  So, if D-boards are going to be implemented, be sure to anticipate these problems had have a solid plan to address and overcome them.  No doubt they can be powerful and do offer some great benefits, but do watch out for the pitfalls.

The Dream team learned a lot and received some good advice from the 3 host companies.  A few of the key points they were advised on included:

  • Just start, don’t wait for perfection
  • Encourage rapid cycles of improvement to the boards as you go
  • Make the boards easy to change quickly and easily
  • Use habit changing challenges to motivate and create new disciplines around the board cadence and routines
  • The staff or team members own the tier 1 boards meaning they update them and report out on status, not the managers

IMG_20200213_1612559The two day workshop concluded with a Dream debrief where each of the Dream leaders identified the biggest thing that they had learned, and each making a commitment as to what they were going to do when they returned to their office.  With the mystery of visual control boards revealed, they are excited to embark on this exciting journey.

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For additional information on High Performance Leaders Inc., click here.  Or follow on LinkedIn.

You can email me with any questions at glennsommerville@hotmail.com, find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/glennsommervilleL2R/, or on Twitter at  https://twitter.com/gsommervilleL2R.

If you are enjoying my posts and find the information useful, please “Follow” me by entering your email in the follow box on the right-hand menu of my website www.glennsommerville.com

 

Lean and Continuous Improvement, Visual Controls

Do Your Operational Abnormalities Go Undetected Too Long? Maybe It’s Your Escalation Process?

If you are finding that your operational abnormalities go undetected too long, perhaps you need to take a deeper look at your escalation process.  If you haven’t reviewed your escalation process, tested knowledge and understanding of it, or don’t have them at all, perhaps this is a good starting point.

Clear and specific escalation criteria is a key element of an effective abnormality management system.  Abnormality management and escalation criteria is NOT a manufacturing thing only!  Abnormalities can and do occur in any operation.  What’s important is what we do when they occur.

There are 3 main elements of a abnormality management system which are discussed below.  In this post, we’ll focus more on the escalation element.

1.)  Defined standards in place that specify what is normal and what is abnormal.

Examples:

a)  Maximum number of work in process (WIP) units is 20.

b)  Maximum customer wait time is 15 minutes.

c)  When not in use, equipment XYZ is stored at location ABC-01.

d)  The line is to operate at greater than 90% operational availability (OA).

2.)  Visual controls that quickly and efficiently identify an abnormal condition or situation.

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Examples:

a)  20 squares taped on the floor, each depicting where 1 unit of WIP can be placed. 15 squares taped in blue tape, and the last 5 in yellow.

b)  If customer wait time is electronic, change the font colour and/or size of the customer’s name, or flash the name on the computer screen if the customer is not assisted within 15 minutes.  If a manual system is in place, mark with a pen the time after which 15 minutes will have passed.  Once the 15 minutes has elapsed highlight the time to differentiate from other customer orders.

c)  Tape the floor in which equipment XYZ will fit.  Post a picture at ABC-01 and add text indicating this is the home position of equipment XYZ.  Or, draw a shadow outline of equipment XYZ which will quickly indicate if it is there or not.  An equipment sign-out sheet is posted at the location indicating who signed out the equipment last.

d)  Install a coloured light and/or audible sound connected to the line controls that indicates when the line is down or not operating.  Have a downtime counter on the line indicating the cumulative downtime within the shift.  Alternatively, have a manual tracking system that is updated by a designated person that displays the cumulative downtime within the shift.

3.)  Escalation processes are documented standards and instructions that define what action is required to be taken by whom, at what point, and how they are to escalate the issue.  The more descriptive the escalation process is, the better.

Examples:

a)  When there are 15 units in WIP (all 15 blue taped locations) immediately call the team leader by activating their andon and advise them of the situation.  The team leader will assess the situation and make a determination as the appropriate response (i.e./ add or remove resources, resolve productivity issue, etc).  When there are 20 units in WIP (all 15 blue and 5 yellow tape locations) immediately call the team leader and advise them of the situation.  The team leader is to shutdown the line and assign team members alternative work.  The team leader is to phone the manager within 10 minutes of the line down.

b)  When a customer has been waiting 15 minutes, prioritize their order by following up and confirming their order and assessing when it will be completed.  Advise the customer of delay and expected resolution.  When two or more customers have been waiting more than 15 minutes, notify the supervisor immediately.  The supervisor is to assign additional resources to assist with the customer orders.   If any one customer has been waiting more than 25 minutes, the supervisor is to be immediately notified.  The supervisor will resolve the issue with the customer’s order and make a determination (based on customer service policy) as to a discount to be offered to the customer.

c)  If the equipment is found in an abnormal location and not in use, it is to be returned to the designated location immediately and the supervisor advised.  The supervisor is to check the sign-out sheet and follow-up with the person responsible for not returning the equipment.

d)  If the line is down more than 10 consecutive minutes, the team leader is to phone the maintenance manager to advise them of the situation.  If the line is down more than 30 consecutive minutes, the maintenance manager is to phone the Production Director and advise them of the situation.  The Production Director will assess the situation and determine what course of action for the employees i.e./ send for early break/lunch, send home, etc.  When downtime exceeds 30 consecutive minutes and/or OA is less than 85% in a shift, the maintenance manager will complete a root cause analysis and provide a report to the Production Director the findings and actions within 24 hours.

Once you have these 3 elements in place, you need to periodically audit and confirm each of them.  This means auditing that the standards are documented and all who use them are knowledgeable of the standards, know where to find them, and are following them.  Confirm that the standards are documented, are in good condition, and revise them if anything has changed, or needs to change.  Confirm the visual controls are in place, in good condition, being used and followed.  If not, determine why not and correct.  Also confirm that the escalation process is in place, being utilized, and is effective.  Confirm for each of the elements that new hires are trained on them, and know what they are responsible for.

Your abnormality management system will only be as strong as your weakest of the 3 elements; Standards, Visual Controls, and Escalation.  Audit them today!

 

Related Posts:

Who the heck needs standards?

4 Necessities for Smooth Flow

Stop repeating bad history…

3 Critical Necessities For World Class 5S

Is Your Management System Limiting Your Success? 6 Steps To Start Improving Today!

 

Contact me:

You can email me with any questions at glennsommerville@hotmail.com, find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/glennsommervilleL2R/, or on Twitter at  https://twitter.com/gsommervilleL2R.

If you are enjoying my posts and find the information useful, please “Follow” me by entering your email in the follow box on the right-hand menu of my website www.glennsommerville.com