Mistake Proofing with Color

Why are so many work environments a dull gray or tan when the earth is vibrant with color. We sometimes forget that humans can see in color. Stoplights use red, yellow, and green. Why can't we use more color to help mistake proof processes?

Color for Processing
When I mailed in my taxes in April I noticed the IRS uses color to sort their incoming mail into ones with money and ones without.

The white address label on the left is for taxpayers who owe money. The yellow label is for refunds. One goes to Charlotte, NC and the other goes to Fresno. The processing and handling of checks on the one hand and writing checks on the other probably helps simplify their processing.

Restaurants use orange lids to distinguish between regular and decaf coffee.

Hospital labs use different colored tubes to identify whether blood samples are going to hematology, coag, or chemistry. If you see a green tube (chemistry) in hematology (purple), you know it's misplaced.

A door manufacturer uses different colored bins for different kinds of screws to help ensure the right parts are packaged with the right products.

In our office, we use a red folder for payment processing and plain manila folders for order processing. This way, checks don't get lost in the wrong folder.

The Mind Learns In Color
The human eye can readily detect color. Once your mind gets used to seeing a certain color associated with a certain tool, product or process, the two become linked in your mind. So, when you see the right product (e.g., tube) with the wrong color or the right color in the wrong place, it sets off an alarm in your mind that will help prevent a mistake.

Work in Technicolor
Still trapped in black-and-white thinking or just shades of gray?

How can you start using color to mistake proof your processes?

Rights to reprint this article in company periodicals is freely given with the inclusion of the following tag line: "© 2008 Jay Arthur, the KnowWare® Man, (888) 468-1537, support@qimacros.com."

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