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Creating a Visual Factory with the 5S System

By Matt Wastradowski

5s tool board example

The term “visual factory” refers to an approach to lean manufacturing processes based on visual information throughout the workplace. A visual factory uses a system of communication tools to share information at the time and place it is needed.

Visual controls improve working areas by answering questions; identifying equipment, materials, and locations; describing actions and procedures; and providing safety warnings and precautionary information. Visual tools also boost productivity by giving employees the information they need, where and when they need it.

With this article, we’ll look at what goes into a visual factory, the benefits of creating a visual factory, and how can Graphic Products help implement and improve visual communication throughout your facility.

How Does a Visual Factory Work?

As part of the lean manufacturing process, a visual factory uses signs, labels, charts, infographics, and other communication tools to provide data in an efficient manner. Conveying this information visually reduces the time invested in reading, processing, and interpreting text-based instructions.

  • Work processes
  • The information an employee needs to complete their tasks
  • General layout of the jobsite and key access areas (including aisles, entrances, and paths) where information would help an employee
  • What an employer hopes to accomplish by developing a visual factory

In assessing these areas, employers might consider implementing 5S, which is another lean manufacturing tool that eliminates waste, promotes standardization, and encourages facility-wide organization. One of the core principles of 5S is visual order, making it a natural tool for developing a visual factory.

The next step is to determine how to share that information.

This is accomplished through a series of visual cues and systems that reflect the needs of a specific workplace. Those may include:

  • Electrical display boards, which provide real-time information about the status of production (or a process) within a facility and alerts workers whenever assistance is needed
  • Floor marking aids and wayfinding signs, which can help employees find walkways, entrances, exits, navigational aids, and other instructions.
  • Signs and labels that designate inventory, storage, tools, and other vital resources

Benefits of a Visual Factory

Visual factories provide numerous benefits throughout a facility, including:

  • Improved productivity and output
  • Clear, simplified instructions in complex environments
  • Safer workplace (given the clear, intentional visual communication)
  • Higher profits (due to more efficient processes)
  • Fewer errors and less guesswork throughout a work process

Visual Factory Solutions

Labeling and signage are key components of a visual workplace. Thoughtful, well-placed labels and signs, as well as floor and aisle marking, give employees the information they need and contribute toward the success of their company through clear communication.

DuraLabel industrial label and sign printers by Graphic Products can assist in developing clear, impactful custom visual communication. With six printers and more than 50 specialty label supplies, you’ll find the right tools to start or improve your facility’s visual factory.

These signs and labels are used by health and safety managers around the world to keep employees safe, direct them around a jobsite, and alert them to important information.

Strategic floor and aisle marking is another component of implementing a visual factory. PathFinder floor marking, wayfinding, and safety tape by Graphic Products can establish clear, safe paths; identify aisles, storage areas, and key items; and direct traffic between key areas. This communication boosts productivity and leads to safer work processes.

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