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The Visual Factory

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The Visual Factory

Building Participation Through Shared Information

Productivity Press,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

This guide to visual communications is replete with examples from firms that succeeded and failed – including the reasons they did.

Editorial Rating



  • Comprehensive
  • Concrete Examples
  • Insider's Take


This now-30-year-old investigation of factory floor communications by manufacturing executive Michel Greif retains its relevance, at least for firms that have not yet implemented Lean processes or other tools that incorporate visuals. Since the book’s first publication, many modern companies will have replaced Greif’s analog message boards and charts with large digital displays. But his message remains pertinent and timely: Firms whose workers develop goals, standards, processes and performance indicators – and display them for everyone to see – collaborate, share ideas, solve problems, and improve more readily than those that don’t.


You communicate visually, whether you intend to or not.

Visual communication harkens back to the times of drawings on cave walls, monuments and military banners. Even as electronic communications now dominate work, visual communications retain their usefulness. In the midst of workplace computing and digitization, they have made a comeback.

The way a factory looks – what you see as you enter it – speaks volumes about the culture within. Bulletin board postings, colors, charts, signage, lighting, dusty inventory, a stack of rejected outputs in a corner, and the look and feel of workers’ personal spaces all help demonstrate how they do their jobs, and how they and their managers communicate information.

Successful visual communications depend on organized and clean work areas. Teams signal their commitment to quality – to each other and to customers – through structure and neatness. Cigarette butts and small parts littering the floor, for example, showcase carelessness and waste. Instead, utilize shelves, racks and storage containers with labels and signs, to ensure everything has a proper place.

Visual communication speaks to groups...

About the Author

Manufacturing executive Dr. Michel Greif taught operations management at France’s Hautes Études Commerciales (HEC) Paris.

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