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Shop Floor Management, a visual management approach to the shop floor

The shop floor is an integral part of the company, as it is the production, assembly or manufacturing zone. It is very important that it is well coordinated. Shop Floor Management is central to Lean Management in order to create the factory of the future, accompanied by Industry 4.0.

What is Shop Floor Management?

Shop Floor Management is a specific style of management for production shop floors and factories to create a clear, secure, stable and operational working process. According to Kiyoshi Suzaki, author of “The new shop floor management”, this technique develops shop floor management as a whole, i.e. through stock, equipment, operations, manufacturing, processing, etc.

Shop Floor Management is based on 3 fundamental pillars to successfully manage and coordinate the production shop floor:

  • Genba - “the actual place”: Place where added value is created, where problems arise, where customer satisfaction is achieved... It is an approach involving going to the shop floor, to the field, to uncover waste (MUDA) and opportunities for improvement
  • Genchi Genbutsu - “Go and see”: This is a practice of TPS, the Toyota Production System, encouraging decision-makers to go and see matters and communicate with employees to discover potential problems
  • Genjitsu – “Reality, the facts”: Providing real data and then approving it following a quantitative analysis of the situation. It is the third pillar of the Kaizen method, the LEAN continuous improvement approach.

How can you implement shop floor management within your company?

Good shop floor management starts by highlighting industrial objectives given to production teams. Each of these objectives must be tracked and measured using key performance indicators. These results will help monitor production in real time, but also improve flows if needed to track a comprehensive LEAN Manufacturing approach. In order to make it accessible and improve company management at shop floor level, it is necessary to use visual management. i.e. using dashboards, performance monitoring, problem or maintenance (TPM) tracking, etc.

Visual management must take the organisational characteristics of the company into account. It is understood in terms of 2 time scales:

  • short to respond promptly to common problems (daily)
  • long to highlight underlying trends (weekly).

Effective visual management must combine visual communication and verbal communication so that the exchange of information between people is efficient, in both directions, leading to decisions being made quickly as close as possible to the field.

This association is based around meetings relating to visual information: e.g. operational 5-minute meetings, weekly meetings and monthly meetings.

Problems and variations become clear

The shop floor dashboard provides a good overview of all relevant data, current topics and projects in production. It is a real requirement for the precise presentation of key data. On the shop floor dashboard, all employees can see each stage of the project and where problems or discrepancies are emerging.

Moreover, the daily exchange of information plus centralised visualisation immediately highlights problems in production processes. Response time is reduced and problems can be identified and resolved much earlier.

But in order to manage and create an efficient process in line with a continuous improvement culture, it is recommended to combine traditional visual management and digital visual management on production shop floors. This management system allows visual and real-time collaboration and communication using connected screens, such as the E-Leanboard, or responding before it is too late thanks to instant visibility of production flows using Leanandon. Digital visual management is therefore the best shop floor management technique, as this method reduces costs and saves time thanks to a JIT flow management system.

Visual management allows anyone to know if the situation is normal or abnormal in an activity zone (production or service), if problems are identified, and if teams are handling the real problems with adapted criteria to resolve them. The purpose is to rapidly visualise relevant indicators of a department or shop floor to be able to manage the different activities efficiently.

Visual management can be considered as a driver of company performance, and it allows everyone to get involved based on “vision”, "knowledge” and “action”.

The purpose of shop floor management in a manufacturing process

Shop floor management aims to:

  • Identify and reduce shop floor problems
  • Optimise production processes and flows
  • Improve communication using connected tools
  • Create an efficient and tidy working space through the 5S initiative
  • Increase production efficiency through continuous improvement
  • Make teams independent to improve their performance
  • Positively influence a manufacturing company’s turnover

Quicker information flows on production shop floors

The information flow is triggered by shop floor management. Regular meetings ensure that the production processes are immediately visible and understandable for management. Operations in other divisions can be better coordinated as a result.

Summary of Shop Floor Management

Visual management must be adapted to the specific features and duties of each sector where it will be deployed. A similar organisation to production can be chosen for office organisation. We can group together tertiary activities based on a process logic in an internal supplier-client chain. These entities are therefore easily linked together, depending on their duties, production sectors and establishment.

For Shop Floor Management to be a success, all employees and management must play an active part in the process. Shop floor management must not be a means of control for management, but essentially a way to improve communication and put humans back at the heart of the organisation.

Direct support of management during a LEAN initiative

Thanks to the cross-functional and hierarchical composition of a shop floor management team, it is possible to develop a communication space where the operator and management can uncover and resolve problems together. Thanks to this shared cooperation principle, there’s no room for a lack of operational visibility.