Visual management and its benefits of Active EMS

We are delighted to present a new series that we have titled; “From the operations office. By this we mean our newest team member, COO Roger Gaskell, (Six Sigma Lean Practitioner), has put pen to paper to document common challenges faced by electronics manufacturing service providers ( EMS), and the solutions that experience has taught him. Roger hopes that by sharing the knowledge gained through extensive practice in the electronics industry, others can avoid the pain points he learned.

“Visual management is one of those essential parts of our work and personal life that many of us accept without question and may not even have noticed. But once you understand what is meant by visual management – ​​and what it includes – you will see it everywhere”!

So what is visual management?

Visual management is a means of visually communicating expectations, performance, standards, or warnings in a way that requires little or no prior training to interpret. You may have heard the term in the context of the workplace, particularly factories, but it’s actually used in all sorts of everyday scenarios. You’ve probably used dozens of visual management tools today without thinking twice.

There are six categories of visual management that increase control over standards, performance and quality. It starts with simply communicating the facts and ends with the use of visual checks to prevent errors from occurring. The categories are:

  1. To share information
  2. Share standards
  3. Integrate standards
  4. Warn about anomalies
  5. To stop anomalies once they occur
  6. To completely avoid anomalies

Let’s examine them in more detail.

To share information

The first category of visual management is to share information. It’s something you’ll see regularly in workplaces and a common example is a simple notice board.

Examples of visual management you’ll find on the bulletin board include charts showing monthly performance summaries, customer survey results, key team accomplishments, and perhaps a list of team suggestions. ‘team.

Or in this case, a simple wall showing training, ESD log, first responders, firefighters, etc.

Another example, which you can also use at home, is color coding. The most common system is the traffic light system where red is a warning, yellow means be aware, and green means fine (traffic lights being a great example). The bottom line here is that everyone should understand what information colors convey, without having to ask.


All SMT processes are linked to our internal “Andon” Light system which gives a clear indication of the status of the assembly lines.

Definitions should be clear. If you have to ask, it’s not visual management, it’s just decoration.

Share standards

Next comes the sharing of standards. The idea here is to communicate information, in the same way as above, but where something is done on a regular basis and must meet a certain standard.

Integrate standards


The next logical step in sharing standards is to make it difficult to deviate from those standards. We do this in visual management by integrating standards. Examples at work might include templates you could use to create Microsoft Word or PowerPoint documents.

Another common example is a visual scheduling tool, also known as a Heijunka box, which visually indicates what tasks or tasks need to be completed, when, by whom, and in what order. The advantage being that there is no confusion as to priorities and that everyone can do what they want.

The example on the right shows a clear indication (boxes highlighted in yellow) of where through-hole components should be installed.

Warn about anomalies


Visual management can be used when an error, anomaly, or problem has occurred to provide a warning and prevent the problem from continuing.

These can be manual visual aids or, in this example, a PowerPoint presentation alerting the assembly operator/inspector to look for a problem encountered in previous batches. This is part of the assembly instruction and is animated to constantly alert the operator to the problem. Very difficult to say that “I was not aware!

This element of visual management often goes hand in hand with other anti-error measures.

To completely avoid anomalies


The last category of visual management can also be considered as a step to avoid errors. And some of them are so simple you’ll be surprised you never thought of them. This step is intended to prevent a problem from occurring, rather than simply providing information or a warning that a person should act on.

A good example is an airplane lavatory: the light in the cabin does not come on until the door has been locked, requiring users to lock the door and preventing other passengers from opening the door. door while she is busy. All while preventing a light from turning on.

And finally, bringing it all together, the Active EMS workstation showing a bespoke tool station map and display of assembly instructions.

About Active EMS

A dedicated Electronics Manufacturing Services (EMS) company offering tailored solutions to customers with individual needs.

Strategically located in Manchester, renowned for its industrial prowess, we are an integrated manufacturing provider that enables partners to grow by offering in-house prototyping, design for manufacturing (DFM), fabrication, logistics capabilities, resources and our own human strength.

We work across all industry segments, from automotive to medical to infrastructure and beyond. Active EMS provides every market with a robust supply chain solution, from wearables to massive electro-mechanical products.

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