The Visual Workplace

What is a Visual Workplace?

In simple terms, the visual workplace is a workplace that places critical information at the point of use, but lets take a closer look.

Coined by Lean manufacturing experts, the visual workplace is a concept that focuses on visual cues around the workplace in order to reveal critical information. Through the use of signs, labels, placards, displays, and other markings, employees are able to stay focused on their work while be reminded of critical information, with little interruption.

In nearly twenty-five years of research and implementation, I have never found an approach more powerful than workplace visuality in liberating, empowering, and aligning the workforce — not just value-add employees but all employees, including managers and executives.

-Visual Workplace, Visual Thinking by Dr. Gwendolyn Galsworth

Dr. Gwendolyn Galsworth is one of the leading visual experts on the planet. Her tactical approaches to a visual workplace have empowered many organizations around the globe, increasing their performance and culture from top to bottom. Her book “Visual Workplace – Visual Thinking” has been instrumental in shaping the thoughts of Lean implementers everywhere and a must for anyone trying to improve their workplace.

What a Visual Workplace is Not

The visual workplace is not a flooded wall of signs and banners that overwhelm the senses and confuse the recipient. This is nothing more than waste, which is exactly what the visual workplace is designed to combat. Granted, the visual workplace can be made up of thousands of devices, but only when implemented strategically do they add value to your organization.

If you don’t understand why you are putting up a cue or device, then you can’t expect it to improve quality or safety in your facility. Everything should have a purpose for being there, nothing should seem out of place or slow down the employee’s work. Remember, this should improve every aspect of your organization, not confuse or slow it down.

Keep This in Mind

A visual workplace is a self-ordering, self-explaining, self-regulating, and self-improving work environment… where what is supposed to happen does happen on time, every time, day or night–because of visual solutions.

-Dr. Gwendolyn Galsworth

Benefits to a Visual Workplace

  • Eliminates Waste and Information Deficits: Everyday valuable time is wasted throughout an employee’s shift when they lack the information needed to do their jobs efficiently and effectively. Critical information should be built right into the physical environment and relay information at the point of use. This puts the information where the employee needs it most, improving productivity, quality, and safety.
  • Improved Training: Research shows that we gain 75% of what we know visually and only 13% through hearing. Knowing this, a visual workplace can play a vital role in job training. When employees are trained better they make fewer mistakes and add value quicker than if  you have to continue to re-communicate messages.
  • Boost Productivity: When designed correctly, the visual workplace will impact productivity, cost, quality, on-time delivery, inventory and equipment reliability tremendously. More importantly, a visual workplace will help sustain all of these benefits for the long haul.

Not only does the success of your Lean activities hinge on your visual workplace, but so does the safety of your employees. Your continuous improvement journey is a path that expects interruptions and while your Lean processes help you work through those bumps in the road, there is no room for a deviation in your safety goals.

Visuals create an environment that is continuously promoting safety and a culture that is continuously re-enforcing the organization’s values. With one universal language you can ensure your organization’s safety and Lean journey will stay on the right path towards success.

Additional Resources