UE applied a Visual Control system within its facility to create a visual factory. The foundation of visual controls is based on the five S’s:
Sustain (self-discipline) The fifth S advocates sticking to the rules, scrupulously.
UE accomplished the first S (sort) by asking each employee to put a tag on everything in their work area. A green tag meant the item was needed; a yellow tag meant they were unsure if it was needed; and a red tag meant that it was not needed. If different colored tags were on something, then UE talked to the employees about why the item had conflicting tags, and reached a consensus on the item. This eliminated items in the work area which were unnecessary for a job. The second S (stabilize) was achieved by marking the walls and floors to indicate the location of items (e.g., brooms, carts, wastebaskets, safety eyewear). This method easily identified when an item was missing from its designated location, and reminded the person who last used that item to return it to its proper place. The third S (shine) involved checking machines for oil leaks, examining housekeeping methods, and finding ways to keep the equipment and work areas clean. The fourth S (standardize) was implemented by starting a five-S (sustain) patrol, consisting of a two-person team that monitored what was being done and gave each area a score. UE used the score to determine which areas needed improvement. The company also set up a steering committee to standardize the colors used for signs and to address any other issues that might come up in sustaining the program.
UE developed many visual controls for use in its factory. One example is a stop sign, near eye level, at every safety eyewear station. The sign’s purpose is to catch the attention of everyone before they enter an area that requires safety eyewear. Another is the Odd Part Out method. After parts are removed from a bin for assembly, they are placed into separate trays at the assembly area. The product is then assembled by using one part from each tray. This method allows the operator to quickly see if a part was left out during the assembly. UE’s visual controls have also resolved previous problems. Many times in the past, an option for a product would be shipped without all of its parts being included. UE solved this problem by using a piece of cardboard with a stamped outline that identified all the parts needed for that option. The operator can now verify that all of the parts are present before the package is shrinkwrapped and shipped.
UE’s Visual Control system eliminated unnecessary clutter and equipment from the work areas; established a location for everything; enhanced the cleanliness and maintenance of equipment; and improved safety. The most beneficial aspect of the system is the effect it has on the quality of the end product.
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