Warehousing and Distribution

Visual Management and “Go See” Leadership

Visual management in warehousing and distribution engages people by bringing the operation to life- team members can see as a group, decide as a group and act as a group.

Time and again, we have seen that the better the visual management in a workplace, the better people are at solving problems. Supervisors who spend a lot of time firefighting tend to have very few visual cues to warn them that a problem is coming.

There is no single best visual tool. There are lots of ways to convey information visually. But, all visual management should have a purpose; otherwise, it is waste at best and harmful at worst. So start with a purpose, why do we need a visual tool for this information? Once you know your purpose, don’t spend time trying to make the perfect visual tool. Start simple and experiment until you find what works best.

Here are four tips for effective visual management in warehousing and distribution.Warehousing and Distribution

Make the Status of the Operation Visible for All to See

Start simple: What’s the status of the work being done in the warehousing and distribution area right now?

The tools that covey this should be available for all to see and use, and leaders should be using them alongside everyone else. Doing so tells your team that you expect them to use the tools. Visual management can be used and eventually should be used in every department and function. What the status of HR? Or payables and receivables? Putting this information in a place for all to see is a powerful way to support collaboration, emphasize unity of purpose, and show respect for people.

Create Operations That are Self-Explaining and Where Problems are Visible

The ultimate goal is to create a self-explaining warehousing and distribution workplace where problems and urgency are visual. With one look at any visual tool, a team member should be able to tell what’s going on:

  • A hammer is missing from the work cart.
  • Four new mortgage applications have come in today.
  • Tomorrow is a compressed work schedule.
  • Cell 5 needs some help.
  • We have one box of tubing left.

If someone has to stop and explain for 10 minutes what the visual means, then it is a wasteful tool. “Getting it” should be immediate.

Give People Visibility into the Score of the Game

People like to know the score of the game. We recognize this in recreation and team sports, but we seem to forget about it in the workplace. Yet, knowing the score is what will tell us if our work is creating value at the highest possible quality and at the lowest possible cost. What are the objectives we want to attain today and how close or far are we from attaining them? In a lean workplace, simple visual tools answer this question.

Effective visual tools convey facts that prompt action. When we give team members the score, we are practicing the check phase of PDCA; then, based on the score, we decide what will do in the adjust phrase.

Gain Understanding through First-Hand Observation of Where Value is Being Added

In the warehousing and distribution area the “Go and See” is a key principle of your job because in order to truly understand a situation, you need to go to the real place where work is being done in order to:

  • Experience where value is being added.
  • Deeply understand what the customer wants and provide that value.
  • Engage with other employees in improving the process and eliminating waste.

This means talking directly to customers, suppliers and team members to receive objective feedback. Act immediately in response to problems you identify through visual tools and observation; and make following up on them part of your standard work. When people see you do this, it increases their respect for you as a leader, and you will be reinforcing what is most important in everyone’s work.




Posted by LeanCor Supply Chain Group

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LeanCor Supply Chain Group is a trusted supply chain partner that specializes in lean principles to deliver operational improvement. LeanCor’s three integrated divisions – LeanCor Training and Education, LeanCor Consulting, and LeanCor Logistics – help organizations eliminate waste, drive down costs, and build a culture of continuous improvement.

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