What if You Treated Your Employees Like Customers?

What if You Treated Your Employees Like Customers?

Large retail outlets like Ikea, Home Depot, and Lowes, as well as successful grocery stores, have created environments that allow the customers to do more and more of the work. Scanning the aisles of large warehouses for products, as well as scanning all merchandise and processing payments, have become the work of the customer. Most of these operations go to great lengths to implement visual controls that simplify the customer experience and require no training for the additional work. Image if you had the same in place for your employees.

These large facilities use two very important visual management tools to help guide the customer: a place for everything and everything in its place and visual work instructions.

A Place for Everything and Everything in its Place  

Take the grocery store for example: “Every aspect of a store’s layout – from the produce display near the entrance to the dairy case in the back to the candy at the register – is designed to stimulate shopping serendipity.” (Lund, Mark. “The Secrets Behind Your Grocery Store’s Layout.” Real Simple, www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/shopping-storing/more-shopping-storing/grocery-store-layout#supermarket-layout. Accessed 5 January 2018.) According to consumer expert Paco Underhill, author of Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping, “‘Two-thirds of what we buy in the supermarket we had no intention of buying’” (Lund). Keeping the customer’s experience at the forefront, retail outlets put tremendous effort and foresight into their store layouts. Each aisle is specific to the products located there and their relationship to other products. Baked goods are all in one aisle and not far from the spices and food packing supplies.

Most importantly, everything has a place and everything is diligently stocked in that place. Some grocery stores even have team members walking the aisles to pull product forward so the shelves always look full.

In the same way, your facility can use this simple visual management tool, not only for the warehousing of raw material and components, but for the work area of each process. Put effort and foresight into the layout, always keeping the employee’s experience in mind. Create a place for everything and make sure everything is kept in its place. You may even consider a role for cleaning up and organizing the locations, just like pulling material forward in a grocery store.

Visual Work Instructions

The checkout process at most retail outlets now has very specific visual instructions for the customers. At a grocery store, customers can find the price of their apples by specific type and weight with the help of some simple visual work instructions. Customers are usually lead through a series of screens that start with produce, then apples, then specific apple types, with a scale right at the checkout spot to weigh the product.

In the same way, your facility could have a binder with visual pictures of each assembly or process step and tabs that lead to the right specification. Employees could be lead through a series of tabs that start with round bars, diameter, and gauge which shows the specific steps to process the grinding step for that specification.

So often, new employees are directed to a work site on their first day and told to watch an experienced operator. The goal is for them to commit to memory all that they see. Visual work instructions make this so much more effective and increase the likelihood of everyone doing it the same way.

Help your organization treat your employees like customers. Look for opportunities to make the work and the material obvious to anyone in the area!

Learn more in Patrick’s book, “Facilitating Effective Change,” available online through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Patrick Putorti

Patrick Putorti

Patrick Putorti

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