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3 Things Good, Lean Visuals Have In Common & Mieruka: The Four Different Types of Visuals with Examples

lean visuals

Good visuals that help plan, schedule, organize and communicate information are an essential part of a lean environment. Recent studies show that as high as 83% of human learning occurs visually.  Good visuals have a positive and sustainable impact on productivity, quality, equipment, reliability and employee engagement.

As a company that makes specialized magnetic whiteboards, Magnatag works with employees who are implementing lean programs in a variety of industries. Based on lean visuals injuries year to datetheir experience, we have found there are some common characteristics of good visuals that make them successful in a lean environment including:

  1. They are easy to see: The human form of the HurtSpot safety board is eye catching and makes safety personal. Having your visuals located in the “right place” where people who need information can see it at a glance is important. Putting a safety awareness board in a break room or near a time clock helps drive your message home.
  1. They are engaging and easy to understand: Images like the HurtSpot board are self-explanatory and visually motivating. They grab everyone’s attention and encourage them to focus on working safely. The use of recognizable shapes and bright colors helps emphasize the message. Good visuals use universal symbols, images, color, size and position to communicate clearly in a lean environment.
  2. They are easy to use and maintain: This KPI Pyramid magnetic whiteboard is both simple and efficient. Employees post daily productivity information on the board with pens and magnets. The red and green magnets communicate from a distance while hand written results provide greater detail. Like a scoreboard, it keeps everyone informed. Unlike a computer, the board is always on and shares information with everyone 24/7.

Good visuals belong in a prime location and should share a clear message that is easy for everyone to understand. Complicated messages, overly busy graphics and highly detailed KPI’s can be hard to comprehend and are not as effective.

lean visuals safety

Good communication tools are important because they makes sure everyone is striving toward the same goal, whether it is safety, production rates or quality products. In an upcoming post, we will share a graphic showing what types of information are important to employees that will make your visuals more effective.

To find out more information about the examples in this post, please visit Magnatag Visible Systems website.

Mieruka: The Four Different Types of Lean Visuals with Examples

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.

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 lean visuals to serve their intended purpose.
Each section will soon provide links to more examples used within Toyota.


lean visuals indentificationLean 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.


lean visuals informativeThe 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 lean 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.


lean visual instructionalA 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.


lean images planningWhile 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 Of Lean Visuals


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

By Karn G. Bulsuk. Karn is a consultant with extensive experience in both the public and private sectors, in organizations including the World Bank and Toyota. He has significant international experience, and has been based in Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok, Japan and Australia, with experience in managing multicultural cross-border teams throughout the region.

How do you use lean visuals in your facility? Let us know in the comments section below!