Tag Archives: Visual control

Visual control or pull or just-in-time means controlling the current need. Pull means considerably more accurate steering than a push-based, then pull has a short planning horizon of hours or days. This produces much lower cost of operation than with traditional control principles.

Innovations on the Decline


According to new research from Lund University, research and development innovations are declining and productivity within Sweden’s technology companies is slowing.

An innovation is created when a new product comes on the market and changes a particular pattern. A smartphone is an example of an innovation which changed the market for mobile phones and which is currently leading to change within many other markets. This important difference shows how an innovation isn’t the same as an invention.

You might be able to say that Ericsson and Nokia invented the smartphone yet Apple was responsible for the smartphone innovation because they understood how the invention could be commercialized.

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Pulse Meetings Are Short, Effective and Fun

Pulse meetings are short, daily standing meetings where a team plans their work with the help of a Pulse board. Pulse meetings are more interesting and more effective than standard meetings.

Pulsmöten med visuell styrning och jidoka

Pulse Meetings for Planning and Managing

Pulse meetings are a way to plan, organize and manage an organization. Instead of following traditional management philosophies, by holding Pulse meetings it’s possible to utilize the variety and uncertainty that exist in an organization. Pulse meetings are based on the lean principles of visual planning and fault tolerance (from the concept of jidoka). A Pulse board is required to hold a Pulse meeting.

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Visual Management Of Multiple Development Units

Visual management is a decentralized way of working in which team and project participants plan and manage their own work. Participation is necessary but can take place in different ways.

Visualization is a powerful tool that when used correctly can coordinate the work of both a team as well as the whole operation. Visualization requires some rules for cooperation between groups to work: updating the project status should be easy, highlighting problems must be simple to do and there can’t be any delays that would cause information to become old and unreliable. Also, it’s important to be able to see when the last update was made and this information must be available to everyone involved.

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Sociotechnology and Lean Have a Lot in Common

Visuell styrning sänker osäkerheten.

Lean is a method of working that relies on decentralized and self-organized teams. Sociotechnology and lean are closely related.

A lot of criticism has been levied at lean for causing stress and contributing to a negative working environment. Some Swedish researchers link lean with a reborn form of Taylorism. One reason for this criticism is that a lot of what is marketed under the label lean in reality comes from Taylorism and bureaucratic traditions. The result of this is documented in the book Lean i Arbetslivet (translation: Lean At Work).

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What is Lean?

What is lean? I would like to answer that question with an explanation based on the description given by the inventor of lean, Taiichi Ohno.

Pull and push

Hopp and Spearman define pull in their work Factory Physics based on Little’s law. It’s a good definition that states that pull sets limits on any current workload while push doesn’t. However, there’s more to lean than pull.

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Visual Management

Visuell styrning sänker osäkerheten.A lot of people who have worked with projects have experienced the same thing: downtime. You have to wait for people to get back to you, wait for results and wait for decisions to be made. On top of that other actors are waiting for you to finish your task that you can’t finish because you’re waiting for something or someone.

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Leveling Workflow

Leveling workflow means that a limit is set for the number of tasks being done concurrently and that everyone helps each other out.

It’s common knowledge that traffic jams and congestion appear when there are more cars on a road than it’s been built for. In the same vein, having more work without the capacity to handle it leads to a kind of traffic jam within an operation. Overloading causes long lead times and a low throughput. It also causes disruptions that hinder cooperation, causes stress, puts quality at risk and generates waste. To avoid overloading a system it’s necessary to consider the current inflow and adjust it to the capacity and equalize the workflow over time and between individuals to avoid local overload. Equalizing the workflow is not trivial when there is a mix of different kinds of work to take care of. Even if measures are taken to balance the inflow there will still be tasks that are more time-consuming and may stop workflow in different areas.

Leveling Workflow – Helping Each Other Out

In the clip below an example of leveling  the workflow is demonstrated using a simulated product assembly that has been divided up into different steps. The clip features students from the  Technological University of Pereira, Colombia.

How did the equalization take place? The assemblers moved up along the assembly line every time they were a bit ahead. By doing this they could help assemblers’ upstreams and take over earlier stages when the product became more advanced and demanded more time. This way of working assumes that the workers know several stages of the production. They can enter the flow earlier and help out.

What relation does this have to projects? Projects usually involve collaboration between people from different professions. In product development there are designers, testers, purchasers, product technicians, people in logistics and marketers. In order to reach the goals of the project they need to collaborate. In practice some of the participants are always overloaded. Who they are varies over the project’s life cycle, which makes the total available resources in theory correct. The problem is that the resources aren’t used optimally when a large part of the project group is waiting for one member to finish their tasks. For the staff with extra time it’s often natural to start with the next stage of the project. The consequence of this is that interaction within the group is reduced which leads to an increase in waste.

Working Together Within a Project

So what should be done to equalize the workflow within a project? Firstly, don’t jump ahead and start working on stages later in the flow. Instead, make sure to finish the current stages. This means helping each other out. For example, if the designer is stuck on a design problem then other engineers and technicians in the project group should help out. This type of collaboration within a project assumes that a person is able to and ready to learn several stages/parts of the project. People need to let go of the idea of specialization and defined roles since it inhibits collaboration, learning and efficient use of resources.