What are visual management boards?

Visual management boards are displays of key performance indicators, and other comments or findings, that provide important information (hopefully in real-time) to everyone in the facility, especially the workers.

By doing so, the workers understand how their performance is making a difference to the company’s overall performance and shows them how and where they can improve.

What kind of information should be shown?

A board typically shows both positive and negative information related to its area (department, workshop, team) of the facility. Furthermore, the information shown should also be linked to the company policy, operational standards, and area objectives so that it’s possible to measure improvement over time.

Typical performance information to be shown in the factory might be:

  • Efficiency & cost
  • Quality
  • On-time delivery

A good example of how a board should look

The template below represents what a really effective visual management board should look like:

visual management board template

This template has one column per dimension of performance and one row for each type of information, as follows:

  • The top row is for the latest news, what happened this shift or last.
  • The second row is for historical trends in aggregate performance.
  • The third row is for a breakdown of the aggregate into its constituent parts, such as the most common injuries, defect categories, most frequently made products, or the employee skills matrix.
  • The bottom is about actions or projects in progress in each of these areas.
Example courtesy of Michel Baudin: Metrics in Lean – Chart junk in performance boards and presentations

Visual board best practices

Limit data shown: Showing multiple indicators will make boards complex and hard to read. It’s better to start with very few. If this is adopted successfully, then more can be added within reason.

Avoid a rainbow of colours: A best practice is to limit the use of colour on the board and stick to black, although green could be used for positive results and red for negative.

Handwritten is better: Avoid filling the board with printed notes, graphs, and tables. By hand-writing information, managers have to take responsibility for filling the board regularly and pay close attention to the information.

How to make the boards work

On their own, the boards could just become ‘wallpaper’ – a presence that most people walk past every day and ignore because they’re just ‘there.’

It’s important to make them the focal point of regular team meetings, where management gather all staff that the board relates to and goes through each point illustrated by them, discussing them as they go.

Benefits of visual management boards

By adopting visual management boards in your facility, you should be able to receive the following benefits:

  • Managers can interpret real-time data and take action faster than before
  • All workers can see the goals and performance relating to them and feel more ownership and motivation
  • Inefficient areas are highlighted and worked upon to reduce inefficiency/waste or issues
  • Negative trends, in general, will be highlighted and can be improved upon – this could be in manufacturing, quality, safety, cost, on-time delivery, etc
  • Discussion of results becomes the norm, leading to more productive meetings and healthy dialogue between management and workers

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