Visual Controls

 Sustaining Edge Solutions, Inc. Newsletter

Performance Improvement Solutions for Your Business                                 August 2014


This Month
* Visual Controls
* MFG Metrics That Matter
* Save $ With Energy Audit
* In the News
* Training Courses



ASQ Service Quality Conference   Sept. 23-24, 2014 San Francisco, CA.

AZTC Technology and Business Expo. October 15, 2014 Tucson, AZ.  We are a presenter and expo exhibitor.



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Our newsletters provide information on business management systems and process improvement methods.  These systems include ISO 9001 QMS, AS9100 Aviation, Space and Defense, ISO/TS 16949 Automotive, ISO 27001 Information Security, ISO 13485 Medical Devices, ISO 14001 Environmental Management Standard, and others.  Subjects include performance improvement methods such as Six Sigma, Lean Enterprise, and other topics of interest to our readers.

If you have any questions regarding content, or have a subject of interest for a future newsletter, please let us know.   


 Visual Controls


In our last two newsletters we have covered the topics of Process Walks and 5S methods for sustaining process improvement.  Our lean methods digest continues this month with an effective and simple method referred to as Visual Controls.                                              

Visual controls are signs, symbols, and/or other visual cues to remind employees of proper methods or specific tasks. These visual controls are frequently developed during lean / kaizen events to simplify the workplace and provide visual feedback on process performance, including being used to reinforce the improvements made to a workspace using the 5S methodology.


Visual controls can be developed to quickly remind employees of identified improvements and ensure continued implementation, and reduce deviations from the desired standard. These are simply signs or other visual cues that serve as reminders in the workplace. In this way, potential problems are kept more visible, which enables them to be quickly addressed. Visual controls should help employees focus on a process and compare expected performance versus actual performance.

Typical Duration: Visual controls can be implemented immediately at any time, whether in conjunction with another improvement tool or as a standalone method.


The form that visual controls take is not limited to any specific model; instead, creativity can generate nearly any kind of useful visual control. You can experiment with developing visual controls for your processes, and with revising them to track the status of those processes.

Are you a service company thinking visual controls are only for manufacturers?  Not true, the following is an example of a proven visual control we designed with a large service provider client of ours:

Many service providers have personnel working in cubicles or other areas involved in customer service and fulfillment of orders.  This interaction between employees is more than just phone calls or emails, it requires getting off your chair and going to discuss with your coworkers customer issues, and fast turn around decision making.


This service company created color coded cones in red, yellow, and green. These cones can be seen from any area of the floor by all employees.   If an employee sees a red cone, the coworker is very involved and does not want to be disturbed, yellow translates to a potential availability, and of course green means “come on over!”  A simple and extremely creative visual tool that works.    


Some common visual controls include hour-by-hour production tracking charts, job-by-job tracking charts, and recycling and waste disposal reminders, which can include various colored disposal bins with different shapes, signs, and/or photos to guide what users should dispose of where. Visual controls should be clear and the team should keep them maintained. When visuals are kept current, they constantly reinforce the contrast between expected and actual process performance, and therefore allow opportunities for improvement to be identified. In this way, visual controls can substantially contribute to the effectiveness of other Lean methods.


WHY IT’S USEFUL – Visual controls are useful for reinforcing standardized procedures and processes for displaying the status of an activity so every employee can see it and take appropriate action. When used properly, visual controls display the difference between actual and expected performance, allowing you to identify areas for improvement. This tool provides rapid feedback to improve real-time decision-making and problem-solving.

Have an example of an effective visual control you have put to use or seen?  Let us know  and we will include them in our next newsletter.


 Manufacturing Metrics That Matter                  


According to new research conducted by MESA International, manufacturers across industries are reaching new levels of excellence, pushed forward by the dynamics of a shifting business landscape. Manufacturing organizations are achieving this elevated performance through continuous improvement directives and programs that require the synergy between people, processes, and supporting technology resources.


The focus of this research is to understand the business impacts of metric programs and that are being used across a wide range of manufacturing industries. With the breadth and span of available metrics, it is important that organizations choose the right metric approaches that align to business and manufacturing processes to diver optimized improvement efforts.


In this report, the following questions were answered: 

(1) Which metrics are being used to best understand manufacturing performance and opportunity areas for improvement?

(2) How does my company’s performance improvement compare to industry?


(3) How do we connect operational metrics to financial metrics?

(4) How can technology help support and impact metrics programs and performance? 

All respondents were asked about specific performance levels of three critical metrics:

  • On-Time Completed Shipments (OTCS)
  • Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE)
  • Successful New Product Introductions (NPI)

 Key Relationships Between Operational and Financial Metrics

Many positive correlations were found between average annual metric improvements and average annual financial metrics. The 2014 survey revealed the following key observations:

  • The average percent successful NPIs was 72%, with the top 7% of performers achieving 90% or better.
  • The average OEE was 71, with the top 11% performers achieving 80 or better.
  • The top performers in NPI had average annual financial improvements of 16% versus 8.6% for all others.
  • Those with OEE of 80 or better had average annual financial improvements of 14% versus 8.6% for all others.


Respondents with NPIs of 90% or better reported average annual financial improvements of 16%. These respondents also had 32% annual improvements in customer fill-rate/on-time delivery shipments/perfect order versus an average of 12.5% overall.

Research shows that companies are achieving elevated performance through following effective continuous improvement programs. This requires the collaborative support of people, processes, and technologies, but in order to focus on the correct areas, companies also need to ensure that the most impactful metrics are used within these programs.

For more report information, visit the MESA  website.

Looking for a list of effective manufacturing and service process metrics? Contact us and we will email list to you.



Save Operating Costs with an Energy Audit              


For many businesses, the cost of energy is high, so improving their energy efficiency can be the key to remaining competitive.

A number of companies and organizations have already integrated an energy management system to reduce consumption.

Now, however, they can take this exercise a step further with the new ISO 50002:2014, an International Standard on energy audit, which will help them make informed decisions about how they use their energy.

Audit outputs include essential information on current energy use and performance and recommendations for improvements in a wide range of areas, including operational controls, maintenance controls, modifications and capital projects. Now companies can improve their energy performance as well as driving financial benefits.

The new standard sets down the basic principles and requirements for carrying out energy audits and harmonizing common auditing processes. Additionally, this common approach allows organizations to compare results across similar sites.

More To Come

ISO 50002 has been designed to complement ISO 50001, which focuses on the development of an energy management system. Other standards to look out for in the future include:

  • ISO 50003 on requirements for bodies providing audit and certification of energy management systems;

  • ISO 50004 on guidance for the implementation, maintenance and improvement of an energy management system;

  • ISO 50006 on measuring energy performance using energy baselines and energy performance indicators;

  • ISO 50015 on the measurement and verification of energy performance in organizations.



For more information, visit the ISO Website.



In the News      

ANSI Board of Directors Approves Creation of Workcred

The Board of Directors of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) voted to approve the creation of Workcred, a new ANSI affiliate organization tasked with increasing awareness of competency-based, industry-recognized workforce credentials and supporting efforts to improve the quality, transparency, portability, and market value of these important tools.

As more and more jobs require applicants to have special training or experience beyond just a high school diploma, industry-based credentials have become a growing part of the credentialing world, providing new opportunities for job seekers and employers.

For more information on Workcred visit the ANSI Website.


Consumer Spending in the U.S. – Summer 2014  


According to Gallup, Slightly less than half of all Americans (45%) report spending more than they did a year ago, while 18% report spending less. A closer look at these numbers reveals Americans’ increased spending is on household essentials, such as groceries, gasoline, utilities, and healthcare, rather than on discretionary purchases.

At the other end of the spectrum, roughly one-third of Americans report spending less on discretionary items such as travel (38%), dining out (38%), leisure activities (31%), consumer electronics (31%), and clothing (30%). More than half of Americans say they are spending about the same for rent or mortgage, household goods, telephone, automobile expenses other than fuel, personal care products, and the Internet.

All of this suggests that the increasing cost of essential items is further constraining family budgets already hit hard by the Great Recession and still reeling from a stagnant economy. This is the first time Gallup has measured household spending in this way, so it is unclear whether the current patterns are typical, or if the results on discretionary spending are better now than during the recession.


Training Courses

To see the course description, schedule, and on-line registration click on the course title below. We deliver onsite training for all these courses and customized training to fit your specific needs.  We offer group discounts.  


View all our Courses

View Our Web Based E-Training Courses   

ISO 9001 Quality Management

Understanding and Implementing ISO9001:2008

ISO 9001:2008 Process Based Internal Auditor 

Documenting Your Management System

AS9100 Aviation, Space and Defense

Understanding and Implementing AS9100C (9110 &9120) Aviation, Space and Defense

AS9100C:2009 Process Based Internal Auditor

Documenting Your Management System 

ISO/TS 16949 Automotive

Understanding and Implementing ISO/TS16949:2009 Automotive

ISO/TS16949:2009 Process Based Internal Auditor
Documenting Your Management System 

ISO 14001 Environmental

Understanding and Implementing ISO14001:2004 Environmental
ISO14001:2004 Process Based Internal Auditor

Lean Enterprise and CI 

5S Five Pillars of a Lean Workplace Organization
Continuous Process Improvement
Lean Six Sigma
8 Disciplines (8D) of Problem Solving

ISO 13485 Medical Devices

Understanding and Implementing ISO 13485:2003 Medical Devices
ISO 13485 Process Based Internal Auditor 

ISO 27001 Information Security

Understanding and Implementing ISO 27001:2005 Information Security
ISO 27001 Process Based Internal Auditor 

All courses can be delivered at your company. Don’t see a course, location, or date that fits your needs?

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