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The New Art of Lean Visual Management

Posted by Mihir Shah on Jan 23, 2017 10:32:00 PM

Having implemented several Lean & 5S projects, I have had the opportunity to see first-hand the transformative effect visual information has in an organization. When people can understand what is going on without having to dig and ask questions, they become engaged in the process. Communicating information throughout all departments and levels of an organization is critical for implementing and sustaining lean manufacturing initiatives. Visual systems can go in a long way to help reinforce the behaviors that you are trying to instill in the employees. Through visual management, employees gain an understanding and therefore can engage in the problem solving easier.

The use of traditional Lean visual management tool such as Value Stream Mapping (VSM) and Discrete Event Simulation Modelling complement each other in a variety of ways. Both tools expose waste so that it can be eliminated and prevented from recurring making the workplace more efficient. VSM is a visual representation of every process in the material and information flow. Even though VSM provides a first visual aid in comprehending a process, it is still in an abstract form. No items are moving, no stock is varying, and no figures are changing over time. The inability to detail dynamic behavior of production processes and analyze system dynamics limits users to see the desired process in static sense. Discrete Event Simulation on the other hand provides a unique condition to account for process variability and randomness. The availability of the information provided by the simulation can facilitate and validate Lean Initiatives. Therefore, there is a need for visual management to go beyond static charts, metrics and a few warning signs. Simulation-enabled visual management offers a powerful platform to improve open and transparent communication between all departments.

Revealing shop floor dynamics in a compelling 2D or 3D animation

Non-value added components within the manufacturing critical path time represent the waste in the system and within a manufacturing environment; the NVA components typically includes wait times that are generated due to dynamic interactions of machines, labor and parts. Discrete event simulation makes use of visual elements to represent events its simulation, which can help visualize these system dynamics and quantify the performance improvements that we expect from applying Lean manufacturing shop floor principles.

Arena's visual designer is capable of supporting incredibly realistic and dynamic 2D and 3D visualizations.  The tool allows working with predefined objects that can virtually represent the resources used in a factory, floor layout, overhead conveyors, mezzanines, cranes and material handling systems. With these modular objects, we create a “3D scene” in a fast and efficient way without drawing the equipment in detail. Since shop floor personnel are familiar with the layout of their production areas they can easily relate to sequence of events in the 3D scene, which could otherwise be hard to understand when looking at a complex simulation model. The dynamic representation of items enriches process understanding, engages users and encourages participation at the same time.

Furthermore, using Arena’s process analyzer module, which has a user-friendly interface, factory personnel can make little adjustments to the input variables without even having the need to open or understand a complex simulation model. The results are visualized directly in Arena's 3D animation module and a dashboard showing time-based performance measures. A perfect example of this is being able to visualize the effects of part batching policies on the staging areas of the work centers. Queues at each resource in the model are compared to the incoming areas designated for each work centers in a visual 5S factory.  By changing batch sizes of jobs one can visualize the impact it would have on WIP levels at work centers - current number in queue (NQ) over time and quickly identify bottlenecks.  A few measures that may be red flags are larger than expected queue lengths, resources that are unexpectedly under-utilized or over-utilized, counter values that are smaller or larger than expected. By displaying this data on the factory floor, employees have a better sense of production levels and tend to strive for higher performance.  Arena can also help visualize the impact of Lean principles in terms of improvements and reductions in floor space, transportation, manpower, and equipment requirements.

Visualization of Production Planning and Scheduling

The use of operational simulation models and connecting Arena models to live production data can unlock a completely new paradigm of lean visualization. Such a framework can allow for adjustment of schedules and production processes before actually executing them on the shop floor. Instead of having daily and weekly production meetings at display boards that show static information, manufacturing supervisors can view a 3D animation of an ERP production schedule and effectively predict how operations will be affected by changes in demand, disruptions in supply, changes in product mix, product sequence impacts, and more. 3D model animations make it easy to anticipate operational bottlenecks, estimate throughput, and predict utilization.

In summary, Arena has several desirable characteristics that perfectly complement tradition Lean tools and the overall result helps to drive productivity throughout the organization by increasing efficiency, quality and uptime. These properties make Arena’s simulation modeling and 3D animations a powerful part of a Lean organization’s toolbox.

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