Principle 7 of Toyota Way

Use visual controls so that no problems are hidden.

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Paraphrasing Mr. Cho (President of Toyota Motor Corporation) speaking about Taichi Ohno, he said that:

“You should clean everything so that you can see the problems. He always complaint about not being able to observe and detect potential problems.

The principle #7 from the Toyota Way states the following

“Use visual controls so that no problems are hidden”.

Visual controls should be designed to communicate information to people, indicating whether a condition is acceptable or not acceptable.

It is a business management technique used in places where information is communicated by using visual signals instead of written instructions. The design of the communication is aimed to allow a fast recognition of the information to increase the efficiency and response time.


The objective of these methods is to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of a process by making the steps in that process more visible. The psychological effect of visual control lays on that if something is visible, it is, therefore, easy to remember.

There are different methods used to apply visual control in the workplace. It can be implemented in both manufacturing or services processes, so it not not only applied on factories. As an example, some companies use these techniques to make clear the manufacturing flow, marking where the raw materials, semi-finished products, finished products, bins or machines have to be placed or marking where the scrap and good products have to be held. Technical departments such as maintenance often use visual controls due to the high number of references they have to work with and the high value and cost of maintaining inventories.

Visual signs communicate information that is needed to make effective decisions. These decisions may be oriented to safety or can give reminders like what steps should be taken to solve a problem. Whether it is named as “visual control” or not, the true fact is that replacing text with graphics makes information easier to understand, making it a more efficient way of communicating a message.

The aim of the visual controls is to make the management of a process the simpler the better. This involves giving the exact situation of the KPI (Key Process Indicators) visible to everyone so that in a glance, employees know whether the results are positive or not. They are meant to display the operating status of an operation in an easy-to-see format and provide the consequent instruction. A visual control system must have an action component associated in case the procedures are not followed within the production process. Thus, visual controls must also have a component where feedback is provided to employees.

Let us talk about the most known and common technique implemented nowadays:

Resultado de imagen de 5s ejemplos practicos

5S methodology

Its name comes from the 5 Japanese words that start with S: seiri,seiton,seiso,seiketsu, and shitsuke.

Some organizations call this methodology as 6S, where the sixth element is safety. 5S is frequently viewed known as  visual controlvisual workplace or visual factoryThere is not consensus about the origin of the 5S technique as some say it come from Henry Ford (using CANDO –> Cleaning uo, Arranging, Neatness, Discipline and Ongoing Improvement), others say it was Hirano or Osada.

Find below the process description for each one of the S’s.

Sort (Seiri)

  1. Make work easier by eliminating obstacles.
  2. Reduce chances of being disturbed with unnecessary items.
  3. Evaluate necessary items with regard to cost, productivity, internal movements, etc.
  4. Remove all parts or tools that are not used.
  5. Segregate unwanted material from the workplace.
  6. Waste removal.
  7. Make clear all working floor except using material.

Set in order (Seiton)

  1. Arrange all necessary items so that they can be easily used.
  2. Prevent waste of time by arranging the work station in such a way that all equipment is close.
  3. Make easy to find and pick up the necessary items.
  4. Ensure FIFO (First In First Out).
  5. Make workflow smooth.
  6. All of the above should be planned and done frequently.

Shine (Seiso)

  1. Clean your workplace on a daily basis or set cleaning frequency otherwise.
  2. Use cleaning as inspection.
  3. Prevent the deterioration of the equipment.
  4. Keep workplace safe.
  5. Keep workplace clean.
  6. Anyone not familiar to the environment must be able to detect problems within 2 m  in 5 sec.

Standardize (Seiketsu)

  1. Establish procedures to ensure the consistency of the previous implementation.
  2. Develop a work structure that will support the new practices and make it part of the daily routine.
  3. Ensure everyone knows their responsibilities.
  4. Use visual controls to help keep everything as it should be. It is very important to be able to see the before and after pictures.
  5. Review using checklists the status of 5S implementation frequently.
  6. Ensure using standardised color codes.

Sustain (Shitsuke)

  1. Perform regular audits.
  2. Implement regular training.
  3. Self-discipline.
  4. Ensure that the standards are being implemented and interiorised.
  5. Be open to improvement


Hope this post has been interesting and looking forward to your comments and experiences!