Go Lean – Visual Factory

Lean Manufacturing Visual Factory refers to lean manufacturing theory. It describes visual methods a factory or any manufacturing plant can use to communicate information about a process to everyone who needs to understand it as they work.

What Exactly Is It?

A visual factory uses a collection of conceptual tools that will convey information in a clear, accurate, efficient, and organized way to those who need to know it. Since this visual information is easier to comprehend than verbal or mathematical symbols, information is conveyed via signs, graphics, photographs and charts. This information is quickly comprehensible and easily accessible to those who need to understand the status of a process. Moreover, this way of communication becomes even more valuable when processes evolve and become increasing complex. Using this method, even complex information can still be quickly grasped and put to use.

How Does It Work?

Lean Manufacturing procedures seek to answer one straightforward question: What is the information necessary to move from the current state of a process to a future state? Evaluating the current state of a process becomes meaningful through contrast, comparing what is happening now to what is desirable in the future. This information is kept relevant by considering process metrics, work instructions, and general plant information.

1. Process Metrics

Metrics are placed at the machine or operating unit to deliver information in real time. When there is instant information, adjustments can be made immediately to a process. A metric that communicates information through light is called an andon, and this is usually a central feature in a visual factory because it provides instant feedback on the state of a process.

2. Work instructions

These give workers information on what to do and when to do it. Instead of verbal descriptions, graphics and photographs are preferred as they give clear instructions and minimize errors in production. The more accurate the graphic reflects the process, the higher the level of communication. Words and numbers can be interpreted in many ways because they are constrained by rules of grammar and style or mathematical sequence and logic, but a clear visual representation offers a literal description that can be immediately understood.

3. General plant information

This is usually posted in a central location and stimulates two-way information exchanges. This information raises awareness, alerts about changes, posts warnings about how to handle potentially dangerous manufacturing processes, and motivates production.


Free 5S guide and posterThere are numerous benefits to this methodology for communicating information:

  • It prevents errors arising from miscommunication. Often what is written or spoken can be interpreted in multiple ways.
  • It increases comprehension, even when describing complex processes.
  • It makes employees feel more competent and reduces friction due to misunderstanding about what needed to be done to run a process effectively.
  • It improves the way machines are used, improving up-time and increasing run rates.
  • It decreases how long work stays in progress.

A company that employs the standards and procedures outlined here will improve internal communication; reduce wastage of time, money, and materials; and provide optimum working conditions and efficient machine operations.

Additional Resources