Get organized: shadow boards improve plant productivity

By Richard Kunst   

Business Operations Industry Operations Production Manufacturing 5S Lean lean manufacturing manufacturing productivity

Set up tools as runners, repeaters and strangers to save time and effort.

Workplace organization through 5S. The plus one is safety. PHOTO: FOTOLIA

When organizations are introduced to lean they start by embracing workplace organization (5S+1) as the first lean initiative. This is understandable since it provides a dramatic, positive visual impact. Many companies stop after 5S, believing they’ve completed the lean deployment … but it’s just the beginning.

Shadow boards are common during an initial workplace organization. They’re used to mark where tools, supplies or equipment are stored, close to the work area or workstations.

But beware: like a workplace organization exercise that – without forethought – becomes a giant housekeeping event with no direct savings, similar results can occur with improperly designed shadow boards.

Benefits of properly designed boards include:
• Improved quality. Gauges and callipers are easily located and setup, calibrated on time, which lowers errors.
• Reduces time. Time is saved by not searching for tools and tackle.
• Reduces safety hazards. Tools are not lying here and there, or on the floor.
• Reduces costs. Fewer tools go missing, which reduces costs.
• Increases productivity. The plant benefits as operators/workers become more efficient.


But there’s a deeper level to shadow board science. Let’s start with tools.

Sort them to produce runners (less than 30 seconds), repeaters (less than two minutes) and strangers (less than 15 minutes). Take into account that every 30 inches of reach takes 0.6 of a second (that adds up with repetition).
Once tools are categorized, question the need for each one. If a complete set of wrenches is needed on your board, set-ups are too complex. Look at how to do set-ups and adjustments using one wrench size.

Contamination is understood in the food industry, but it’s also applicable to other industries so consider different colour codes for process versus non-process cleaning. In the food industry they typically will use 1) food contact, 2) non-food contact, and 3) floor cleaning. Your process needs to deliver a quality output so do not risk potential contamination.

Reduce motion

Location is the key to success. You’re aiming to reduce the repetitive motion. Be creative. In many cases mobile solutions are most suitable since the team member can place the shadow board exactly where it’s most effective for their use, and you can have multiple mobile solutions (such as one for order processing and another for set-ups).
Shy away from using paint to create your shadows. Try vinyl, which is easily removed.

Use a good substrate, such as an engineered plastic, instead of the common melamine pegboard, which is easily damaged and prone to humidity.

Since many tools and gauges look similar, use pictures instead of coloured shadows.

This simple methodology delivers great savings if you take the extra time to properly engineer the board.

Richard Kunst is president and CEO of Cambridge, Ont.-based Kunst Solutions Corp., which helps companies become more agile, develop evolutionary management and implement lean solutions.


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