Posted by Dr. Gwendolyn Galsworth   |  

We have worked our way through the first six doorways and now arrive at Doorway 7/The Visual Machine®–the machine that speaks. In creating a visual machine, we apply the array of visual methods from the previous doorways to the machine function, typically (but not always) starting with Doorway 1/The Visual Where.

The machine is a special operational focus, requiring an implementation process quite different from how we approach other parts of the organization. There is, however, no change in visual principles; these remain identical. As always, the first two are:  1) to tell merely by looking; and 2) tell the difference merely by looking. Machine visuality is also driven by the very familiar What do I need to know or share questions—and still focuses on the relentless pursuit of motion (in all its hundred and perverse forms) and on the information deficits that cause it. As in all visuality, we eliminate both through solutions that are visual—the essence of visual thinking and proven pathway to visual excellence on all operational levels, no matter the venue.

When we apply the two driving questions to equipment, any of at least stakeholders can be the “I” that is at each question’s heart: the machine operator, maintenance technician, quality staff, planner/scheduler, material handler, and then the machine supervisor, his/her boss—and then his/her boss. And because machines are dynamic systems, they contain their own feedback loops. That means, they generate continuous data that then need to be surfaced and converted into imbedded system of devices—the exact challenge visuality is designed to meet and achieve.

Your Maintenance Department owns Doorway 7. With an array of other stakeholders (operators, schedulers, material handlers, quality staff, supervisors) playing a contributing role, your maintenance staff nevertheless holds the leadership position. In and of itself, this is a breakthrough opportunity. In many companies, maintenance has a daunting workload. In the worst, that workload can be demoralizing. When machine conditions are bad, everyone seems to be against maintainers. At the same time, maintainers may find they have to fight for everything—resources, time, you name it—and fight with everyone, especially operators who, to them, often seem more skilled at causing breakdowns than preventing them. Faced with this, it is not hard to see why the maintenance crew sometimes has a grumpy reputation.

While there are exceptions, in far too many asset-based companies, maintenance technicians are burdened by knowing that if they don’t keep the machines going, the company could fail and they, along with many others, could lose their jobs. They also know: 1) that 60%-80% of all machine breakdowns are caused by lubrication errors, and 2) that the rest of the workforce does not know this and is often the weakest link in overall equipment effectiveness. Yet maintainers have little say over workforce education. Doorway 7 unties their hands and puts them in charge of addressing their worst enemy—ignorance.

Imagine their jubilation when management commits to implementing the visual machine and gives them a leadership role. This is at the heart of Doorway 7: transforming information vital to running, maintaining, changing over, and repairing equipment into an imbedded system of visual systems. Through dozens—no, hundreds—of low-cost/high-impact visual devices and mini-systems on, in and around machines, maintenance and operators alike can do what needs to be done in support of maximum machine availability—quickly, safely, accurately, and on time.

Visual devices and mini-systems make machinery self-explaining so we can be self-regulating. They build common sense and a common improvement language directly into the physical work environment. The Visual Machine® doesn’t just help us do the right thing repeatedly, reliably and fast, it helps us prevent problems.

In a world without visual devices and visual mini-systems, operators and maintainers alike are forced to rely on memory or costly trial-and-error to fill in information deficits. The result? Long changeovers, long repair lead times, lost production, unhappy customers, and a demoralized workforce. Visual solutions put an end to all of that and refocus on more advanced questions, such as: What is the highest level of equipment effectiveness and availability we can achieve?

Look for our on-demand Visual Machine® webinar series, coming soon.



High impact/low cost Visual Status Machine Solution— flexible, detailed, and timely.


When this maintenance group applied Smart Placement principle, Store Things Not Air, this formerly empty space began to contribute to the bottom line.