Are Your Machines Talking to You?

Simple visual tools applied to manufacturing equipment can speak volumes.

In our high-tech world, we tend to look for high-tech solutions for our equipment and reliability issues. And yet, in many cases, simpler solutions can easily address the root cause of the problem.

Over the past 30 years, our quest for this kind of “world-class simplicity” has taken us into hundreds of manufacturing facilities, working on machines and processes in a variety of industries. One of the most powerful—and yet simple—solutions we’ve ever seen are equipment visuals.

Putting crucial information right on the equipment where it is needed with something as simple as a paint pen or a gauge-marking label makes work easier and more accurate, relying less on human memory or trial-and-error methods. And the result is improved equipment performance and reliability.

Imagine reducing your equipment training time while also eliminating errors. Imagine making your equipment easier to operate, maintain, and inspect. A growing number of manufacturing facilities are using visual solutions—simple tools that require only a small investment of time and money—to make practical, sustainable, and yet powerful changes.

Visual systems can be easily and affordably applied to your equipment using a variety of equipment-marking supplies. These easy, practical changes communicate a wealth of information, including the most important operating and maintenance information and equipment specifications. In fact, visuals remove much of the guesswork and make equipment much easier to operate, maintain, inspect, and troubleshoot.

Seven Steps for Helping Your Machines Communicate
To get started with visual systems for improving equipment effectiveness, seven simple steps can transform your machines into lean machines:

  1. Talk with the machine operators to determine what kind of information will make your equipment easier to operate, maintain, and inspect.
  2. Do your research to find the correct information for each piece of equipment.
  3. Design a reliable application method and location for the visuals.
  4. Apply the information directly on the equipment at the point of use.
  5. If you make minor modifications, test them for safety and effectiveness.
  6. Teach people how to use the new visuals and modifications to make their work easier.
  7. Keep the visuals up to date. Teach people about potential pending equipment modifications.

So What’s In It for Me?
Something as simple as labeling your equipment can engage the people closest to the equipment and help them develop a sense of ownership. Mysteries about the equipment are solved. Access to parts and information is improved. Operating and maintaining the machines becomes much easier. Orienting and training new people goes much faster. Errors are reduced, if not eliminated. And improving the way people interact with their equipment will make it much more reliable. The end result is that the world-class simplicity of equipment visuals knocks down the barriers to improving performance.

To learn more about a range of simple, affordable tools that can transform your equipment and check out our Lean Machines book.