"Old" location

I had a lot of fun working with a great team performing a 5S in a manufacturing area last week. This was the company’s first official 5S event so we treated it as a “learn-do” occasion. We did all the usual things associated with 5S – red tagging, setting items in order, cleaning & inspection, creating standards, etc. But, my favorite part was the team working on tool shadow boards (as part of “Set-in-order”).

Some of the team members that have been part of companies that have applied 5S before came up to me to let me know that their tool shadow boards don’t work. In fact, they even went as far as to say that they have never seen tool shadow boards work effectively.

Of course, I had to ask why tools shadow boards don’t work and the reply was “Because people don’t put the tools back!” I wanted to use the 5 Whys technique (asking why five times) to help to get to the root cause of the situation. Because of the amount of resistance I felt was underlying the situation I decided to take another approach. As a good lean student should I performed genchi genbutsu (actual place, actual thing or go see and get facts).

Here is what I first discovered – yes, indeed the tools where not put back on the tool shadow board. Many of the tools were missing. Next, I saw that the tool shadow board was located on the side operator’s desk. At first this may seem to be a good location for the operator, but it also had a garbage can directly in front of it. The tools had lines traced around the outside but were not labeled as to what goes where. As you can see from this picture that 5S has not been applied to this area.

Sorting Tools

As part of “Sort” we went through and Red Tagged items that weren’t needed in the immediate work area. We found many tools in different locations. A couple of team members went through all the tools that were gathered up to see what they needed and did not need, and what was missing. The amazing thing was that the team found over 50 tools lying around the production area, yet they still didn’t have everything they needed!

A couple of the operators got together to decide which tools they actually needed. At this point I asked questions of why their tool shadow board wasn’t working before in the past. To my

"New" location at point-of-use

surprise they decided to create a new tool shadow board, but this time it was smaller, had only the exact tools they needed, they mounted at point-of-use, they used Tool Tracer Vinyl to outline the tools and labeled each of the tools.

Two of the operators that told me that tool shadow boards never worked before told me that this time they think they have a chance. I asked why and the two reasons they gave me were 1) that locating it at point-of-use would make it much easier for the operator to put it back and 2) now they have a standard that all operators can follow.

One more observation of improvement – the team mounted the board inside a clear Plexiglas covering on one of the machines. This seemed to be a great point-of-use location. When they came in the next morning, they noticed the board was taken down. They asked the operator running the line that day why he took it down; he said he couldn’t see the machine running when he was standing by the computer. Instead of the team getting frustrated that he didn;t like the board where it was originally located, they brainstormed other locations where it wouldn’t be in the way and conferred with the operator to make sure the new location was o.k. Now that’s continuous improvement.

So here are ten quick questions you can use as a checklist of things to think about when making a tool shadow board:

1. Does it have the right tools on it?

2. Are there extra tools on the board that are not needed or used (remove these)?

3. Is the board conveniently located so that people can easily get the tool they want and put it back when they are done?

4. Do all the tools have shadows around them?

5. Are all tools labeled?

6. Did you consider using color-coding to identify tools?

7. Did you create a Standard for the tool shadow board?

8. Did you use immediate correction if a tool is not put back when it is supposed to?

9. Do you use daily audits to make sure all tools are put back?

10. Are all people in the area trained on the proper use of the toolshadow board?

As the “Check” part of Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) I’ll follow up in a couple of weeks to see if the tools are still there.


At 5S Supply we strive to continuously introduce new and innovative products and services, so I am excited to tell you about one of our newest items – Magwear Magnetic Wristbands

This ingenious accessory will surely aid your Lean efforts by reducing walking waste, search time and help to keep needed items close at hand and at point-of-use.    

No need to hold screws, nails and bolts in your mouth (your dentist will surely be happy) pocket, or climb down the ladder to retrieve them.  Inside the rugged plastic caddy which measures approximately 3” x 3” and is ¾” deep, is an intensely powerful magnet which holds most metallic objects including screws, nails, and small tools.  You can even pile your hardware in layers.  Trust me it really works! 

The product adjusts to fit wrists of any size and is available in red or black.  It weighs just 4 ounces so it won’t weigh you down and can even be attached to your belt in case you might like to make a new fashion statement. 

Magwear has 1,000’s of uses and is appropriate for the shopfloor, assembly lines,maintenance work, constructions sites, autobody shops and even the office (staples, binder clips, tacs).  It’s also the perfect companion for any home improvement project and especially useful on ladders, under cars, in crawlspaces, while 5S’ing your garage and even sewing projects.  I know I will be wearing mine as I build a new deck in our backyard later this spring (all tips are welcome!) .

My favorite part about this new item is that it was another great idea from our Customer Care Manager, Jennifer Molski (she invented the 5S Sticky Tag and our popular 5S Pins).  At 5S Supply we try to inspire creativity and independent thinking in all of our employees and this is another fine example.  It is Jim Womack who reminds us that the embodiment of respect for employees is offering them the courage to try.  Thanks Jennifer, for trying!  And stay tuned as next month we will introduce a new Lean product created by one of our Customers! 

So stop going nuts looking for bolts (pun intended) and get your Magwear Magnetic Wristband today!  We are pleased to offer this product on sale for an introductory price of $15.95 (regular $17.95) and you can order it now or check out more information for Magwear

Let us know how you use your Magwear! – Tony