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Robert Napoletano

Quality Insider

A Lean Tool to Support Your QMS

Visual management communicates ISO 9001:2015 requirements

Published: Thursday, May 28, 2015 - 17:06

Overall, lean is the toolbox we should all be using to help eliminate waste—the stuff you don’t want to do, and the stuff your customer’s don’t want to pay for. The best way to eliminate waste is to communicate what it is and what it isn’t.

One of the key elements in the ISO 9001 standard has been communication, and it’s further amplified in the upcoming revision, ISO 9001:2015. To begin this discussion, I went to the Merriam-Webster dictionary and looked up “communication: the ways of sending information to people by using technology.”

Using the current Draft International Standard (DIS) of ISO 9001, I’ll start with the seven quality management principles outlined in Annex B. Each has a communication component that needs our attention:
Customer focus. Everyone works to satisfy a customer, and the requirements to do that must be communicated well.
Leadership. Leaders must specify purpose and direction. This must be well communicated so the direction can be followed and the purpose is clearly understood.
Engagement of people. Engaging people begins with communication, making them aware of their responsibilities and authorities. Part of this requires empowerment, giving employees the opportunity to make changes to improve their ability to satisfy the customer
Process approach. Everyone needs to understand the business’s processes. “Why am I doing this, and how does it impact others?”
Improvement. Tell everyone how things are going, what the company is and is not achieving. Keeping your staff engaged in looking for and participating in positive change.
Evidence-based decision making. Keep everyone focused on making decisions based on good information and not just because it feels right.
Relationship management. Keep relationships with interested parties optimized to achieve the best performance.

These management principles are intended to cover the whole quality management system (QMS) in a universal way. The term “communicate” is used 13 times in sections 4 through 10 of the standard. Here are four that we should pay especially close attention to:
5.1–Leadership—Communicating the importance of an effective QMS and adhering to those requirements.
5.2–Quality policy—Communicating the policy to everyone so they understand it and can apply it to their activities.
6.2–Quality objectives and planning to achieve them—Making sure there are quality objectives, and everyone knows what they are.
7.4–Communication—Ensure that communication has clear direction—what, how, when, to whom.

This is a thumbnail summary of the need to communicate, but how do we do it effectively and efficiently? Let’s look at the lean tool of the visual factory (VF), also known as visual management. VF is a method to communicate and share information throughout the business. VF boards can, and should be, placed in every work center, not just in production areas but in the offices as well. It’s a place for everyone to share information about how things are going. It’s also a place to show what needs to be done—e.g., action plans and their status, responsibilities, timelines, and critical events—as well as how the plans are proceeding and the steps to improve them.

Visual factory is a fairly broad subject. It’s not just a board to post company news, job opportunities, or holiday and vacation schedules—but don’t forget these because they’re important, too. VF can encompass many things, like pathways that are often seen in hospitals to show the way to various departments; where to put the cart or part; signs that indicate what’s in the pipe and what direction the contents are traveling; and a host of other indicators. The Lean Handbook (Quality Press, 2012) edited by Anthony Manos and Chad Vincent, defines visual management as the placement, in plain view, of all tools, parts, production activities, and indicators of production performance so that everyone involved can understand the status of the system at a glance.

For another perspective, in his book The Visual Factory, Michel Greif (Productivity Press, 1991) explains visual management with a triangle. The three points of the triangle are seeing as a group, acting as a group, and knowing as a group. This concept shows how everyone is receiving, understanding, and acting on the same information.

So what visual indicators go where?

Key process indicators (KPI) are strategic data to share with everyone. A group of information boards at the time clock or entrance is a great place to tell everyone how things are going for the business. KPIs such as overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), quality performance data like first-pass yield and in-process inspection or test results, customer complaints and corrective action status, safety performance, yields, shipments, and scrap should be updated daily so everyone can use this information to make sure processes continue to go as well or better.

Once goals are set and posted, everyone can see where improvement actions are needed. Now you have the entire workforce engaged so everyone can be a part of your improvement efforts. Some companies do this with a big paper form and fill in the information at the morning supervisor’s and manager’s meeting. Others do it in a presentation format sent to monitors found in strategic places around the company, like the break room, time clock, or cafeteria.

VF boards should be in every work area to help everyone with what’s expected and how well those expectations are being met. Here are a few types of VF boards:
Lean daily management boards displaying safety, quality, delivery, and cost.
Kaizen idea boards for posting ideas for improvement, their priority, tasks assigned, and activity status.
Lean problem-solving boards (also known as A3) to show problem statements, root cause analysis diagrams (fishbone), action plans, and countermeasures and results.
Training boards let everyone know who is qualified or in training for which jobs, who the trainers are, who’s interested in jobs they’re not currently qualified for, and when training is scheduled.
Goals and objectives boards for daily production and Takt time, scrap reduction, production yields, and quality levels.
Standard work boards for work instructions, visual aids, and tools to use.

You may be tempted to use a computer for all this just because it would be easier to handle this large amount of information, but don’t,” Pascal Dennis in Lean Production Simplified (Productivity Press, 2007). “Wall charts support the visual management triangle, and they involve the team and compel action. Besides, computers lack true interface with your group.”

Not only does all of this information provide an effective way to communicate important information to employees, it also sets the foundation to ensure everyone will get and use the same information. This eliminates misinformation between work cells and shifts.  It establishes a key ingredient for empowerment and engagement. It provides a basis for what might be audited, and a format for corrective action and improvement. Most important, the proper use and management of visual factory tools show employees that your company is serious about using all of the talent at its disposal to ensure customer and job satisfaction.


About The Author

Robert Napoletano’s picture

Robert Napoletano

Robert Napoletano, a supplier quality engineer at New York Air Brake, is a senior member of the American Society for Quality (ASQ). He holds ASQ certifications as manager of quality/operational excellence, quality auditor, and continuous improvement associate. Napoletano has been a member of the Binghamton section of ASQ since 1980 and has held the office of chair, vice chair, and treasurer. He has worked as quality manager in several industries including electronics, metals fabrication, plastics injection molding, and fabrication of gasket and flooring materials.


Very good article - A Lean Tool To Support Your QMS

Hi Robert, very well written and VERY true. Ultimately if the QMS isnt communicated to workers and imbeeded through consultation workers it wont meet the standard and is essentially useless really. I concur with you and believe this is an essentiall truth for all companies. As consultants at JLB we push this as a very important part of implementing a QMS. Ultimately I feel true engagement at all levels is vital and that is what you have touched on. Thanks for sharing your experience and knoweldge Robert.