Chapter 3: Visual Workplace and Error-Proofing


Visual systems are everywhere within the workplace. According to Clarity: Lean and Visual Management (2022), over 80% of people remember what they see and do. By comparison, only 10% of people remember what they hear and 20% of people remember what they read. Visual stimuli are processed 60,000 times faster than text (Clarity, 2022). Visual management involves a three part process, which will be covered below.

What is visual management?

Visual management creates a mental model for users to recall information, using different visual inputs to categorize the information. If the readability of a visual representation is high, it will be processed more thoroughly by the user (Scotland, 2013). A visual management system has a singular goal: out of standard situation is immediately obvious and easily corrected. This includes , , and .

Visual management systems have many benefits to organization. First, visual representations make it easy for people to quickly review and comprehend information. Because the flow of information is simple, it keeps the organization flow smooth and orderly, as designed. Visual representations allow mistakes and potential safety hazards to be identified, some even saying makes it impossible to do the wrong thing (Catalysis, 2019). Visual representations, like signs or signals, eliminates or at the very least reduces miscommunication. Consider the visual cue on some doors to identify if a room is in use or not, clear and consistent communication means the room is used properly without interruptions. Finally, visual management systems allow everyone to see how work is progressing and how their team is improving (Catalysis, 2019).

Three Part System for Visual Management

Home Border: Something belongs here. When the item is moved, we have a placeholder to make sure it can come back home. This could be considered an outline of a tool or a parking space for mobile equipment.

Home Label: What belongs here? The system helps maintain order. This could be a color-coded or symbol-coded system for organizing tools or other materials.

ID Label: Where is my home? The item would be labelled in such a way to direct it back to its home location. An example of this would be labeled file and part drawers for easy location of those items.

Four Levels of Visual Devices

Select each of the five hot spots below to learn more about the four levels of visual devices.

Error Proofing or Poka-Yoke

Poke-Yoke is a Japanese system which prevents errors. This technique is use to eliminate problems, by eliminating ineffective processes or equipment that are causing the problems. Furthermore, this system does not accept errors to move down the production line. They are fixed as soon as they are identified (Trout. 2022; Pradhan & Gautam, 2020). Another way to control quality and error-proof the manufacturing process is through Statistical Process Control (SPC). This is the standard method for measuring and controlling quality during the process, it is real-time data obtained during the manufacturing process (Singh, 2022). SPC involves a sampling inspection by different entities to detect defects and also self-checks built-into the process. As you watch the video below, consider whether you think SPC or poka-yoke is a better way to error-proof the manufacturing process.


Kanban Inventory Management

As we have covered, lean manufacturing focuses on the reduction and elimination of waste, this can be wasted material, work, or time (Saylor Academy, 2019). The process of eliminating the waste in a company is known as kanban. Kanban is identifies waste, eliminating bottlenecks, through the use of a kanban board. Kanban is a visual inventory management system that uses team velocity, lead and cycle time, and actionable agile metrics to measure capacity and project length (“Kanban”, 2022). This method makes it, through visual demonstrations, what work is happening and identifies the waste. There is a delivery flow system that limits the amount of wasted work in the process. Teams can therefore work more quickly to output a quality item and a developing a more sustainable work environment (Saylor Academy, 2019). Kanban can have many forms, like an order card for a standard number of units, an open space on the floor where a pallet of product should be, or an empty bin with a specific number of parts/spaces to be filled. The goal is to visually manage inventory and reduce verbal communication needs.

Kanban Guidelines:

  • Never ship defective items.
  • Customer only takes what is needed, therefore, they must have an order placed and only take exactly the number ordered.
  • Produce only what is demanded by the customer, limiting excessive inventory.
  • Eliminate bottlenecks.

Please watch this short video below about the principles and benefits of kanban.


5 S Method

The 5S Method is a systematic way to clean and organize work centers. The 5S’s are:

  1. Sort
  2. Set in Order
  3. Shine
  4. Standardize
  5. Sustain

The following information is the 5S Method. Review the initial definition of each type of source, flip the card to see examples of that source by selecting “Turn”. After reviewing a card, select the right pointing arrow to move to the next card.



Baldwin, C. (2020, September 1). Introduction to poka-yoka [Video]. YouTube.

Catalysis (2019, December 8). Five benefits of visual management. Catalysis.

Dennis, P. (2016). Lean production simplified : a plain-language guide to the world’s most powerful production system (Third). CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group.

“Kanban” (2022, March 30). Wikipedia.

Pradhan, B. & Gautam, N. (2020). Role of poka-yoke technique in manufacturing process. Psychology and Education Journal, 57(9).

Saylor Academy (2019, April 9). Just-in-time and lean systems. Operations Management. Retrieved July 27, 2022 from

Scotland, K. (2013, October 6). Visual management: Creating a kanban multiverse. AvailAgility.

Singh, V. (2022, May 19). Statistical process control (SPC) guide line. International Journal of Engineering Research and Technology 11(5).

Theeuwes, J. (2021). Self-explaining roads: What does visual cognition tell us about designing safer roads? Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications, 6(5).

Trout, J. (2022). Poka-yoke explained. Reliable Plant.


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SPC and Lean Manufacturing by Andrea Bearman and Roberta Gagnon is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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