Rethinking the Shadow Board


I was in Zurich recently and stayed at a hotel that was formerly a brewery, established in 1867. I saw this shadow board in one of the preserved rooms.

Very impressive -- 55 years before Toyota talked about 5S, the Swiss were doing the same thing.

I excitedly showed this to a friend who runs a manufacturing company in Zurich, but he was unimpressed. He pointed out that the board is inflexible: if the tools change, or if new machines require different tools, then this board becomes a hindrance to the worker, not a help. 

In his company, he uses photographs to show the *current* best layout for the tools that the worker uses, and posts the photo above the work station so that the workers can spot abnormalities, missing tools, etc. It looks like this:

Photo above workspace

We often talk about right-sizing machines, having single minute exchange of dies, making flexible production lines, and so on, but his comment reminded me that our supporting systems -- particularly visual management tools -- need to be flexible as well. Investing money in tools that can't change and grow with the organization is a waste of money. 

8 Comments