Using Shadow Boards to Help Implement Lean Manufacturing in Your Workplace

Reducing waste, improving processes, and maximizing productivity are common goals for just about every manufacturing business. Lean production also referred to as lean manufacturing, is a set of principles that seeks to minimize waste and streamline efficiency by eliminating processes that do not directly add value to the consumer.

And one of the pillars of lean manufacturing is the 5Ss.

What are the 5Ss?

Originating from Japan, the 5Ss is a 5-stage methodology used to help continuously and sustainably improve the organization and function of the production line by giving employees the tools they need to create an efficient workspace. In order, the 5Ss are:

  • Sort
  • Set in order
  • Shine
  • Standardize
  • Sustain

Implementation of these practices should be uniform across the various departments of your production facility, aided by the use of colour-coded shadow boards.

Benefits of the 5Ss

Implementation of a 5S program is a low-cost means of reducing waste and optimizing workspace function. Benefits of this “everything in its place” approach include:  

  • Improving employee safety by removing obstacles and unnecessary tools  
  • Giving all employees better access to essential equipment
  • Increasing productivity by reducing waste and time spent searching for tools
  • Optimizing asset investment by monitoring and maintaining equipment   
  • Improving product quality and reducing defect rates related to faulty equipment
  • Enhancing employee morale and workplace satisfaction with cleaner, more organized spaces

 Taking a Closer Look at the 5Ss

 1. Sort

How efficient is your current production line? You may be surprised to learn the answer. The first step in 5S implementation is to sort through and declutter workspaces. Here you will separate the items that are needed from those that aren’t.

Tools or equipment deemed unnecessary are then moved to a secondary sorting area. Are these items simply misplaced, in which case they can be moved, or are they irrelevant to your production? If they are not needed, you can immediately discard them. 

2. Set in Order

This is where a shadow board and colour coding system can improve your production processes. Once you have identified your essential tools and equipment, give each item a dedicated place.

Smaller tools can be hung on a shadow board and larger items stored in their designated area. Infrequently used but necessary tools should also be organized, colour coded, and given a place to live nearby, separate from regularly used tools.  

3. Shine

Routine cleaning and inspecting the workspace and tools is crucial to effective 5S implementation. Not only does the shine step help keep spaces organized, but it will also help identify missing or damaged equipment.

A well-thought-out shadow board system helps ensure the long-term success of your 5S program.

4. Standardize

Standardization helps take your first three steps from a one-time project into a sustainable practice. Your 5S program should be standard across all levels of your manufacturing facility; any employee should be able to recognize the system regardless of whether they are familiar with that department.

Visual indicators and colour-coded shadow boards make organization cues easier to recognize and follow.

5. Sustain

The long-term success of your 5S program will depend on employee adoption and adherence to the system.

Colour-coded shadow boards, checklists, and regular audits can help reinforce your 5S program as a habit, while a reward and recognition policy can help promote sustainability.