Make It a Tool, Not a Task

Factory Management Display Systems, or sometimes referred to as the visual factory, is a tool that is utilized to allow anyone to walk the floor and see the current condition of the operation. At Toyota Motor Manufacturing in Georgetown, Ky, the first fully owned Toyota factory in the United States, anybody on the factory floor can see what the current condition is with regard to meeting the daily plan, at any point in the day. At Toyota, this was important, because, overtime was mandatory in order to make the daily plan, and this allowed the team members to understand how much overtime would be required, even before it was officially set.

Implementing Factory Management Display System (FMDS)

The implementation of FMDS can be very comprehensive and encompass all aspects of the work environment, however, it usually starts with some type of board at the point of production. There are many terms that reference these boards…production control boards, hour by hour boards, horizontal hour by hour, visual scheduling boards, and the list goes on, essentially these will allow you to see where you are to satisfying customer demand (making your daily target), and where you are having difficulties in meeting the plan, why you are having these difficulties, along with what is being done to “restore the flow”.

The Excitement is Palpable During Implementation

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I definitely say this tongue in cheek. I am trying to recall a time during the implementation of these visual boards where the operators would respond with…”Oh my gosh, these are the best things I have ever seen, finally I get a chance to communicate to management the hardships that I am having on the line”. Usually it is more along the lines of…”I don’t have time to do that” or “this is just another crazy idea that management has, if I don’t do it long enough, it will go away”, and when I question operators about what the boards are used for, frequently I will get the response…”I don’t know, it is a management thing”.

Make It a Tool, Not a Task

During the implementation of systems such as these, it is very important to make it a tool for the operators, not just another task that they must perform. So, how do you do this? It is actually fairly straight forward. What I have found during my time in manufacturing, is that there are two types of problems that occur. The first are those that shut down the process for a long period of time, usually in the realm of hours. These problems get elevated and everyone knows about them, and problem solving will usually occur, sometimes even involving the operators. The other type of problems are those that are quick fixes, but happen frequently. These are the ones that lose 2 or 3 units when you are producing hundreds or thousands per hour, but they happen frequently. Ultimately, after a week or a month, these problems will usually account for more lost time than the big problems. These are the problems that need to be solved by utilizing the boards and making visual the lost time that are associated with these. Once these are solved, the operators start to buy into the system, and will begin to think of it as a tool to make the process better instead of just a task that management is making them do.

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