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Mieruka: The Four Different Types of Visuals with Examples

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There are four main types of mieruka (visual control): informative, instructional, identification and planning. Here we discuss the purpose and definition of each category, and provide examples from Toyota's factories and service oriented companies. Part 2 of a series on mieruka/visual control.

By Karn G. Bulsuk


An introduction to mieruka: The three rules of effective visuals (mieruka)
Examples of mieruka from Toyota: Identification Examples, Informative Examples

The many types of mieruka (visual control or visual communication) can be classified into the “3I1P” or three I’s and one P: Identification, Informative, Instructional, and Planning. Combined with the three rules of mieruka, you will be able to effectively design visuals to serve their intended purpose.

Each section will soon provide links to more examples used within Toyota.

Identification


Visuals which identify help to tell what something is. It may seem obvious, but when you have hundreds of unmarked boxes stacked up together, there is no way to tell what is inside them.

One of the gains in using The Toyota Way is efficiency, and identification visuals will help you to minimize the time required to find something.

The example on the above are reels containing thousands of tiny microchips per reel. Each reel contains a label like the one seen here, containing the lot number, production date, maker and other internal codes. The chips are installed inside of Toyota cars in order to power on-board computers.

The QR Code also provides a machine readable alternative to the information on the label, while the purple coloured stripe on the right of the label represents a colour code. In the concept of mieruka, no effort is wasted in providing as much information essential as possible at one glance.

Informative


The concept of an informative visual is that you can obtain important information from one location, such as status updates or the latest on a current situation. Such summary information are normally placed on walls and white boards, and are specific to a single topic so that the visuals are targeted and specific.

In this example, we can see an extract of a wall located just above an inspection area, in which LCD parts are inspected for quality. In the middle there are a series of bar charts which provides information on the number of defects for the LCD parts, as well as the breakdown of defect reasons. The wall also contains other informative visuals such as list of common defects as well as the parts which will come in.

The wall fulfills its purpose by providing enough information to allow a manager, or other interested parties to understand what exactly is going on. Here, we can see the average number of defects broken down into its respective components, while also seeing the actual parts which arrive for inspection.

Instructional


A common sight around a Toyota factory are instructions in the form of lines on shelves, signs and work instructions. They are designed to ensure operational consistency.

Toyota is a strong believer in the perfection of processes, and in formalizing and making those processes easy-to-follow and enforceable until an improvement comes along. Step-by-step work instructions mounted on walls like the one seen above are common so that everyone follows the same steps. It also assists in the training of new employees, as there are set procedures which can be taught and followed.

Other examples include lines on shelves to ensure that boxes are stored systematically and neatly, as well as clear signs asking you to do (or not do) something.

Planning


While Toyota is not against technology, they believe it still cannot completely replace the versatility and reliability of traditional, but reliable offline forms of planning. As a result, paper charts, reports and white boards are still a common sight around all Toyota entities, where they can be easily seen and modified.

The white board here shows a Gantt chart showing a project plan. Note that the lines used to designate period of a task is actually a sheet magnet cut into different lengths for this purpose.

Quick Summary

Identification
  • Definition: helps you to know what something is
  • Forms seen: labels and stickers
Informative
  • Definition: gives you important information in one area, to update status or situation
  • Forms seen: information walls, charts, informative sheets and diagrams
Instructional
  • Definition: tells you how to perform a task
  • Forms seen: work instructions, lines on floors, signs
Planning
  • Definition: helps you to plan and let others to see what the plan is
  • Forms seen: Gantt charts, white board walls

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3 comments »

  • Eric L Rinehart said:  

    Karn, simple, clear, straightforward. Thanks.
    4i's (four eyes, an American idiom referring to someone who uses glasses to see better)
    - identification
    - information
    - instruction
    - intention

  • karnbulsuk said:  

    Hi Eric

    Yes, the 4i's are always good to keep in mind when creating effective visuals.
    Thanks for dropping by!

  • Emmanuel said:  

    How would you call "problems visualization" ?

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