Inexpensive (But Powerful) Visual Controls

By Ron Pereira Updated on May 17th, 2017

I love simple visual controls. And I love them even more when they don’t cost a lot of money!

Thus the smile that came across my face when watching the “Lean Leadership” interview we recently did with a cell leader from a Washington based manufacturing company.

This interview is part of a new series we’re offering to subscribers of the Gemba Academy School of Lean.

Anyhow, in this interview we learned how this company approaches things like 5S, the 7 Wastes, and visual management.

3 Cup Visual Control System

Specifically, regarding visual management, we learned how this company uses a simple “3 cup visual control system” to monitor the status of their flow lines.

  • The green cup means the cell is functioning as planned
  • The yellow cup signifies some potential issues are approaching
  • The red cup means the cell is down and immediate support is needed

Simple. Inexpensive. Brilliant.

What do you think?

What do you think of this visual control system? Could this work in your company? How would you improve it?

  1. Alan Shephard

    July 6, 2009 - 7:53 am

    Very nice visual control. I especially like the PVC like tubing they used to hold the cups up. I’ll be sharing this idea with my colleagues today.

  2. Tim McMahon

    July 6, 2009 - 11:00 am

    That is great – simple no cost solutions. We use colored golf balls and pin pong balls in one factory as a kanban single. Due to the effect of gravity and the fact the balls roll -using PVC pipe can creat some effective visual controls especially FIFO. This has inspired my to put this on my site.

  3. Thomas Hill

    September 16, 2011 - 10:17 am

    I like this idea, looking for something similar to this. We need to mount our visual on a wall, so something like a medical exam room status flag might be a better option for us, like this example. http://www.quickmedical.com/exam_room_products/signals.html. I’m going to see though if I can find a way to use the cups, so much cheaper! We have 50 test cells that we would want to use this on so any expensive andon lights just won’t work.

  4. Ann Hamon

    May 21, 2021 - 12:15 pm

    This is great! I like simple, but I think ,I would go with 2 real flashing light. This would place the lights in a 5S home. I always liked the old Kmart ,blue light special.

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