There are myriad ways of using images to communicate with employees and improve business processes. Pictures and drawings can be extremely useful tools for Continuous Improvement.
The first area where pictures can be useful is process instructions. In this day and age, there are often many languages spoken throughout the operations – one client had 17 languages spoken on the shop floor. A series of pictures showing the progression of work with arrows to indicate details is easy for all team members to understand. This saves translation and helps reduce errors.
Another place to use pictures or drawings is in process analysis. One of my favorite tools is the spaghetti diagram, which traces the flow of materials, paperwork and even people. Tracing the movement often shows that the process goes every which way, resulting in a large scribbled-looking diagram that resembles a bowl of spaghetti. Once management sees this, they grasp the magnitude of the issues.
For one client who was preparing new buildings for equipment that would increase capacity, I used a spaghetti diagram to trace the workflow in a planner mill yard. The diagram showed several choke points that would reduce productivity and require extra people and lift trucks. By flipping over one of the buildings (thankfully before it was built) we eliminated the choke points, increased capacity, redeployed a person, and eliminated a $120,000 lift truck.
This is just one of many stories about using diagrams to save the day. A picture really is worth 1000 words and often a million dollars or more.
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