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  • timreallifelean

How Can Visual Communication Tools Make Your Team Better?

I've recently started trying to implement more visual communication and visual tools on my current project. I've heard the benefits of visual tools and wanted to put it to the test. I am currently working on a two phase project and made the decision to implement more visual tools right as we kicked off our second phase, so I should be able to track and see the impact it is having on site. Below is a summary of how each phase was set up from a visual communication standpoint


Phase 1 - We used job site signage to visually communicate our emergency gathering area, construction entrance and to mark areas off limits or outside of the construction zone.

Phase 2 - We use the above mentioned tools as well as - laminated logistic plans printed on 2'x3' sheets posted throughout job site, dedicated smoking area clearly defined, large laminated floor plans in our big room for planning and coordinating and large rolling white board for safety coordination/communication


Results

Phase 1 of our project was a success by many measures. We had no lost time injuries, no unplanned interruptions to our client or neighbor and completed the project on time. So it is not like the changes were coming from rock bottom or with a "something has to change" mindset. We just thought we could find a way to improve.

Phase 2 is in progress and is finding similar success in the above mentioned metrics. But I feel like we are doing some smaller, soft skills better.


- Communication has increased during our morning daily huddle. We had a daily huddle during both phases of the project, but the communication and collaboration have greatly increased. We laminated floor plans for the different area of our project and provide a common laser pointer that the foreman use each morning to show what areas their crews will be working in, point our areas that they have question on and overall ensure that everyone understands their plan. We found that each trades office was referring to the project areas in slightly different ways, which was leading to confusion on site. A simple addition of the floor plans makes sure there is no confusion between trades. While I don't have metrics that back it up, I feel like our percent plan complete has increased since implementing our new visual communication tools.

- Site coordination - Our site is very compact site with little room for lay down, and backs up to a major international airport. It is very important that we are organized and everyone knows their specific area. We took our logistic plan that was sent out as part of each trades contract, and put it in 3 major locations on site. One is in our orientation trailer so we can talk through it during our morning site orientations. The second is on our safety communication board that is posted at the job site entrance. And the third is in our entrance area of our job site trailer for quick communication with trades, delivery driveers and the client. This simple board keeps us organized and clearly shows how material and people should flow through our job site.

- Safety Communication Board - Our team holds a weekly safety stand down on Monday mornings to refocus our team from the weekend and build off what we learned the week before. Our safety team selects a toolbox talk, and we talk through site hazards for the week. In phase 1, that was where it ended. If you happened to start work on Wednesday, you would miss out on some crucial information. So to change that, we started using a large rolling whiteboard that highlights the tool box talk for the week, major hazards for the week and any other pertinent safety information for the crews.


Overall, these additions to the job cost our team less than $1000 (printing fees, whiteboard, laminator) but the value we have gotten out of them outweighs that. Visual communication does not have to be a super complex process. It helped me to think simple, and ask myself the question - what helps get the plan out of our heads and onto something tangible. Then we started making small changes and grew from there.

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