Why Use White Boards?

Why place white boards in the workplace? Because lack of effective communication begets poor quality. White boards are visual reminders that in a true LEAN culture employees are empowered to work differently, invested in and accountable for the quality of the work they receive or produce.

"It's the work, not the man that manages." -Henry Ford (1926)

The white board is a simple tool that provides opportunity for communication within and between workstations, provides for connection of workstations horizontally across the path of work flow (or value stream) and makes the workplace visual for both those doing the work and those managing the reliability, consistency and stability of the work. This is a simple form of visual management.

"Even a mistake may turn out to be the one thing necessary to a worthwhile achievement." -Henry Ford (1926)

We, and many others who desire to 'sense the pulse of the machine' in real-time use white boards located in each work station so that the workers themselves, who are closer to the point of receiving or producing work defects, may elevate mistakes in a visual fashion as opportunities for defined resolution in concert with their team leader or teacher.

That defect 'fix' may take the form of:

  • A rapid resolution, or
  • A resolution in progress that requires further study about the nature of the defect (e.g., frequency, type, associations, root cause, etc) in usual PDCA detail. In our culture that means creating a storyboard of the defect and the proposed countermeasures on a large A3 size piece of paper.

Although we have been using white boards for some years now, we have only recently standardized our approach. Attached is our current iteration of a white board. The header is meant to inform and educate the workforce. It contains regularly used references to the defect resolution process of the Henry Ford Production System:

  • The 7 Wastes
  • The 5 Why's of Root Cause Analysis using an Ishikawa Fishbone diagram of common causes.
  • The 4 Rules of Work from the Toyota Production System that are often in violation when a defect is encountered
  • The process improvement procedure methodology of the Henry Ford Production System
  • The Leader's quality messages, here, the Wednesday's Words of Quality

The board is segmented to capture detail about:

  • Daily defects encountered
  • The defects immediately resolved on the spot or those queued for further development as an A3 based process improvement that often requires a 'Go and See' or a customer-supplier meeting
  • Communications for and between shifts and ongoing quality education topics and learning

Will this be the last white board design? Absolutely not. All processes and tools are subject to continuous improvement. This is just the best we have at this moment in time.

"We know from the changes that have already been brought about that far greater changes are to come, and that therefore we are not performing a single operation as well as it ought to be performed." -Henry Ford (1926)

WhiteBoard aug18

My thanks to Mr. Ralph Benitez, supervisor of Laboratory Support Services, for his creativity in the handsome white board design and Ms. Ruan Varney, a Queen of Quality, for the organization and content.