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Nicola Olivetti


Supporting a Lean Culture and Quality Management in the Digital Age

Digital visual management puts visual tools into the hands of team members across multiple sites

Published: Wednesday, May 22, 2019 - 11:01

According to a report by PwC, industrial sectors worldwide plan to invest $900 billion in Industry 4.0 each year. Despite these growing technology investments, only a few technologies are significantly mature to drive measurable quality impacts. Digital visual management (DVM) is one of them, being the fundamental link that bridges the lean culture and quality management in the digital age. 

What is digital visual management?

The vast majority of all the information and communication is visual. The human brain processes visual information significantly faster than text. When a relevant image is paired with audio material, two-thirds of people retain the information three days later.

Organizations dedicated to continuous improvement take advantage of this reality and use DVM to engage staff, provide insight into key information, and to ensure improvement projects are moving forward as scheduled.

DVM collaboration consists of a well-structured and interconnected series of stand-up meetings that take place regularly before a board, where the team posts (on paper or digitally) all the information it needs to steer and improve its activity. This is applicable to any team: from permanent shop-floor teams to top management, including (geographically spread) project teams.

In its digital version you remove all the constraints due to paper (e.g., geographically spread teams, updates, synchronization, confidentiality) while keeping teams empowered. DVM software provides the right level of automation vs. manual interaction to foster transparent, relevant, fast, and collective decision making. What you might call human-centric automation.

In addition to creating sustainable, right-first-time oriented manufacturing processes, DVM provides major streamlining benefits such as the reduction of the cost of nonquality, customer-complaint visibility, and ultimately a clear connection between customer satisfaction and process parameters.

Many popular business management methodologies such as lean and Six Sigma rely on a variety of visual management tools and techniques including kanban, 5S workspace organization techniques (sort, set in order, shine, standardize, sustain), process redesign methodologies (including value stream mapping), and process control tools (such as control charts). Lean collaboration is now possible with new DVM tools that utilize interactive virtual boards to drive meaningful collaboration and create unique opportunities for highlighting decision-making paths, quality escalation, and global transparency.

Example of a digital visual management tool on a large touch-screen monitor. Such tools allow teams in multiple sites to easily collaborate on a variety of tasks or metrics using digital versions of common visual tools. Image courtesy iObeya

Demand for digitization in manufacturing will double by 2020, according to Capgemini Research Institute, which also reported that most manufacturing C-level executives (87%) report digitization is a company priority, and 67 percent think competitiveness is seriously at risk if they fail to digitize by the end of 2020.

Much of this digitization is falling into the laps of QA/QC managers. Quality professionals tasked with going paperless recognize that DVM technology is a natural step due to the direct quantifiable impacts. The production side of the house is measuring metrics such as dock-to-dock lead-time reduction; whereas QA/QC professionals use the technology to significantly increase quality control mechanisms and reduce failure rates.

DVM required to meet global quality standards  

Achieving faster, more cost-effective and sustainable quality production requires an understanding of the whole business process by all its stakeholders. DVM, at the core, is all about visually managing the end-to-end flow with teams that clearly agree on what they need to know and what they need to share to be more effective.

DVM empowers the entire lean 4.0 team with scalability for large or mid-sized companies with a complex supply chain often faced with serious quality and compliance issues. DVM helps to manage compliance as a fundamental enabler for “participative collaboration within and between departments” while helping to enforce quality standards through easy-to-deploy and track kamishabai (process validation) routines. Virtual boards accelerate the “clock” of the performance management system, with rapid (up to 10 times faster) corrective action execution.

Despite all the advancements and real benefits of automation, one of the most salient aspects of DVM is the ability to protect human interaction against excessive automation, by focusing on user-centricity through operator friendly and life-like interfaces. This human-centric approach is key for quality, where team members must be empowered to suggest, reflect, and warn management if anything seems out of place.


About The Author

Nicola Olivetti’s picture

Nicola Olivetti

Nicola Olivetti, a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, currently serves as the Lean and Industry 4.0 Program Director at iObeya. Olivetti was previously the Transformation Leader at Nexans, the cable manufacturer and worked for Roland Berger, a strategy consultancy firm. He speaks five languages.


DVM Article Comments

Nicola, thank you for providing such a strong background of DVM's importance. In an age where technology and digitization is growing more and more superior, it's vital that businesses, and the teams within them, keep up with it and use it to the best of their ability. As someone who is a full time student and also works in an R&D Facility, I've observed the use of DVM in a wide range of methods. On the school end, my major consists of group projects in nearly every course, but my university is primarily a commuter school and everyone has very busy and diverse schedules. This makes meeting consistently rather difficult and inconveinent. The use of digital platforms where we can all contribute, view progress, have visibility to who's made contributions, and have access to it whenever we have our laptops (or even phones) it's made it so much easier to succeed on these assignments. The use of screen sharing or any Google platform (docs, sheets, etc.) have allowed much more efficient group work.

On the work end, I see DVM used among several platforms in project teams. The company I work for is international and very interdepartmental for projects, so having a platform where the team can access real-time progress and have clear visibility of project goals makes communication a lot easier. It gives clear deadlines, action items, visibility of completed work, and reminders of the end goals of the project. Without it, there's be a lot of miscommunication and the process would definitely go slower. Out of curiosity, what are some of the main challenges you've encountered using DVM in the workplace? Also, do you have any prefered platforms for DVM?

Informative article.