What Can Visual Information Do For Your Shop Floor?

The key to increasing productivity isn’t always a new machine or process, it can be as simple as an adjustment to your work instructions.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

There are shop floors still relying on paper build books and spreadsheets of work instructions to feed information to the shop floor.  The entire manufacturing operation relies on the smooth transmission of information from engineering, to the build book, to the worker who then acts on it.  Which leads to the question… is the information getting where it needs to be?  How much of the work instruction is the shop floor actually retaining?

Adding visual information to your work instructions can improve retention of information by as much as 83% more than text only work instructions. Image by www.colourbox.com

Adding visual information to your work instructions can improve retention of information by as much as 83% more than text only work instructions. Image by http://www.colourbox.com

Would you believe only about 20%?   According to psychologist Jerome Bruner of New York University, studies have shown people only remember or retain 20% of what they read.  That means, the shop floor is only working from every FIFTH word in that incredibly well-written and pointedly accurate operation.  Critical errors can happen in the missing words 1 -4.  Add in the speed of work and the confusion on the shop floor and that number goes down even further.

Written instruction in a build book is not an effective way to transmit information, leading to mistakes.  Quality is sacrificed, rework is increased, and you are left with a frustrated work force.  Productivity and efficiency goes down because you don’t have an effective way to communicate with your shop floor.

The solution is much easier than you might think.  According to a recent study by the US Department of Labor, 83% of all learning is done visually.  Another study by the Wharton School of Business compared visual and verbal presentations and found presentations with a visual element were 67% more persuasive than purely verbal ones.  According to Bruner, we retain 80% of information transmitted visually and verbally.

Visual information is the key to improving productivity and eliminating errors on the shop floor by engaging more of the brain, ensuring a higher percentage of retention, according to a study by UC Berkley.  Adding a few images and a short video to your instruction will significantly improve productivity over verbal or written communication.  The quicker your work force can pick up new information, and the more accurate the transmission of information, the more productive your shop floor will be.

Moving your work instructions from text or spreadsheet paper-based formats to a format that incorporates visual information is an easy process with an MES or paperless manufacturing system.  Simply adding photos of the steps toward the finished product to digital work instructions will significantly improve understanding and quality.  Use a smart phone to take a quick video of a machine set up with a little running dialogue, and you’ll benefit from less errors and quicker production.  Rather than simply list out the materials and tooling for a job, add a caption below a photo of each tool to ensure to improve production.

Even better, with a library of approved plans built within the MES, you can eliminate rework and focus on improvement with each operation.  Once you’ve created a visual work plan, you can reuse it again and again.

I hate to mention such an overused saying – a picture IS worth a thousand words, but it’s also worth improved quality and production on the shop floor when matched with a paperless manufacturing system.

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