BIZTIPS - August 29, 2004

Biz Tips: Picture This
Sunday, August 29, 2004
By Art Hill

You enter a building. There’s activity everywhere – people are moving around, talking in different languages, carrying things, pointing, working alone or in groups. There’s constant background noise, broken by the sharper bang, whistle and scream of individual machines. There are a million things happening, but none of it seems to make sense.

A bad dream? No, it’s just your first day on the job in a typical manufacturing plant. You had high hopes for what this job will mean to you. The people who hired you expected you to “hit the deck running.” But your gut says you may not be able to figure out how to do your work well enough and fast enough to keep up. Your supervisor points out some basics, then gets called away. You’re on your own.

Most of us have had a similar job, new office software, new technology in the tools we use. Many of us got “thrown to the lions” without much help learning what we needed to know to work effectively. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Shortly after World War II, an American engineer, W. Edwards Deming, began working with the Japanese to rebuild their industrial economy. Building on Deming’s foundation, Japanese manufacturing engineers developed the “5S” approach to eliminating waste in any kind of work.

One component of 5S is the “Visual Factory.” You can use it to help new employees learn their jobs or current employees learn new ways of doing things.

Let’s say that our new employee at the manufacturing plant walked to their workstation and found all their tools hung on a pegboard with photos of how to use them correctly for each specific task. Or let’s say the person using the new office software had “screen shots” tacked up in front of them showing how to enter and retrieve typical information.

A picture IS worth a thousand words – for all of us, but especially workers with English as a second language. A digital camera and a PC can go a long way toward showing people how to work correctly when a supervisor isn’t available, or recall what they learned in a training session a year ago.

It doesn’t matter whether the illustration is a photo, diagram, chart, or sample product. Look around your business. You’ll see lots of ways you can illustrate safety, quality, and teamwork. Picture it and post it. It will be there every day to teach, coach, and remind. You get the picture. Now share it with everybody else.

Content © 2004 East Oregonian