Lean Manufacturing in the UK?

Lean Manufacturing in the UK

The manufacturing world these days stretches across borders and the globe. Thats why here at Lean 5S Products we have teamed up with our UK partners, Lean 5S Products UK to service our clients across the pond and Europe!.

Lean 5S Products UK are uniquely placed to provide identical products and services to us here in Los Angeles. They produce tool shadow boards, cleaning stations, foam shadow boards and custom production boards. All focus is on supporting your 5S Lean journey and ensuring an efficiency, quality, safety and production element is centred within the workplace.

They have long standing experience working alongside large firms such as Jaguar Land Rover, Lear Corp, Eaton among just a few and will be happy to guide you through their process.


More details can be seen at www.lean5sproducts.co.uk

Or call UK 011 44 1233 840999

Cleaning Materials

All Systems Go - Website Relaunched by Leading US Shadow Board Provider

Lean 5S, the leading provider of cleaning stations and shadow boards to the US manufacturing market, has announced the revamp and relaunch of its website.

Source: All Systems Go - Website Relaunched by Leading US Shadow Board Provider

Cleaning Materials

All systems are go! New Lean 5S Products Website relaunch

All systems go - website relaunched by leading US Shadow Board provider

Sub title: Lean 5S cuts the ribbon on new website for companies in US manufacturing market.

Lean 5S, the leading provider of cleaning stations and shadow boards to the US manufacturing market, has announced the revamp and relaunch of its website.

Their new online home, which can be found at www.lean5sproducts.com, will be the new go-to platform for US manufacturing companies looking to purchase visual management solutions which will allow them to organize their work space more efficiently and increase productivity.

It is expected that the updated online outlet will showcase the unmatched quality and variety of the Lean 5S range more effectively than ever before, giving organizations an enhanced user experience, and smoothing their route to purchase significantly. Visitors will have an easy query channel to customer service representatives, allowing them to make any product-related enquiries they wish.

The new website will accommodate the expanded offerings of Lean 5S, which will now offer customers the chance to customize their tool shadow boards and cleaning stations according to their own requirements. Lean 5s's flexible new service, offered through the website, will give customers the opportunity to take advantage of unlimited design revisions, as they strive to design the perfect product.

With a new online platform with which to reach their customers, Lean 5S expect to continue serving the US manufacturing sector by increasing productivity and organisation with their products. KPIs, TPM’s and training matrix data can all be handily displayed on the Lean 5S's organisational production boards, feeding into lean manufacturing processes and other programs such as Six Sigma, and there are even options for dry erase and magnetic surfaces.

When it comes to shadow boards, the items provided via the website will allow manufacturers to be more compliant, and highlight deteriorating items much more effectively.

Customers will enjoy the convenience of multiple payment methods, with the site accepting major credit cards Visa and Mastercard, as well as PayPal transactions.

Lesley Francoeur, CEO for Lean 5S Products said: "The relaunch of www.lean5sproducts.com represents the dawn of an exciting new era for Lean 5S Products as a company, but also for manufacturers in the US market as a whole. The site is more accommodating of our extensive range of products, as well as providing clear communication channels for visitors to get in touch with customer service representatives. Scouring the internet for products can take up valuable time for manufacturers, and so we hope this new site will make the online purchasing experience for cleaning stations and shadow boards a whole lot easier."

Lean By Doing

Early along, as a student of the Toyota Production System (TPS), now referred to as “Lean,” I struggled with some of the concepts and systems.  For example, Shigeo Shingo’s claim that a four-hour m…

Standard 5S Tool clip

5S Shadow boards. Where do I start if I want to design my own?

Creating a great looking tool shadow board wasn’t exactly written into your contract now was it!

Here, our latest post will try to explain the first stages you will need to think about if you have been given the task of sourcing or creating your own 5S shadow boards within your company.

I embark on this information with the assumption you know what 5s or shadow boards or Lean Manufacturing is. If you don’t then have a look at some of the other posts on the blog or go to https://lean5sproducts.com/what-is-the-5s-system/


Decide how far you are wanting to be involved in the whole manufacture of the shadow board. We have customers that really need full support in creating the “shadows”, design and layout of the shadows and finally fabricating the board itself. Others, incorporate the creation of the boards into their particular 5S journey and want to keep control of each step and may utilize the materials and processes they have to hand.


Determine what type of shadow board you need. What tools are most in need of organizing, why are you wanting to organize them? Do you have a traceability issue with tools wandering around the site? Do you need to color-code in order to stop cross contamination?

How and where are the shadow boards going to be located? Do you need a wall mounted, free standing or mobile aspect to the design? Will the board material need to be outdoor proof, resistant to chemicals etc.

The more you wish from the end product will determine how much can realistically be obtained without the facilities of a dedicated sign shop but don’t let this stop you from creating your own shadow board  if you decide to go down this avenue. Most materials are readily available from the internet and those parts of the process that you are struggling with, Lean 5S Products, will I’m sure be able to support you. http://www.lean5sproducts.com


Creating your particular shadows seems to be the most difficult for most Lean Managers. The sign industry uses various graphic software packages that are powerful pieces of kit but you don’t really need to invest in all this just for the project. We use Adobe Illustrator CC for most design jobs but there are others like Corel Draw, Signlab etc, all very good tools.

But, there are lots of graphic packages out there which are  great AND free for one-off projects such as creation of your “shadows”. I’ve found Inkscape (https://inkscape.org/) is a great open source platform where you can play around with vectored shapes and come up with your own particular designs.

So, why do we need a graphics package and what are intending to do with it?

OK, in order to create the particular shadows of the tools you wish to include on your board, you will first need to take an overhead photo of the piece. Make sure you have plenty of light but it doesn’t have to be photo shoot for Vanity Fair grade conditions.

Depending on your package the software will do the next stage. We need to take that photo and get the silhouette of the shape minus the background. In Illustrator this process takes only a few clicks but as explained how much contact you have with graphics packages may be limited. In this case, perhaps send off your images to your local designer or marketing team who I’m sure could help you with this stage.


In order to obtain the correct dimensions of the tool you will also need to know the length and width of the item so the finished shape can be created with the proportioned features. As it’s a 2D image you will not need the depth measurement.

If a color coding system has to be applied or you want to make the shadows blend in with your branding then fill in the silhouette of the shadows with your designated colors.

A good tip is to make the shadow slightly bigger so that when the tool is placed on the board the shadow stands out around the outline of the tool


Once you have all your shadows created have a good think about layout. Take as much time as possible to involve the operators who will be using the shadow boards, regarding where the shadows should be placed.  Operators work differently in the same areas so watch for individual nuances. Some tools may get dirtier or be dripping so have a think if this will impede tools around them. For instance a shadow board may include cleaning equipment like a mop. Locating the mop head at the top of the design may create dripping wet gunk all down the shadow board. The total opposite to what you wanting to achieve in the workspace. Create order!


If you have an outside company supplying the substrate material then this stage will involve you placing the shadows onto the board. Most cut vinyls will have a self adhesive side which will adhere to clean flat surfaces easily enough. Take care to align and adjust while thinking where the fixings will be placed later.

Next you will need to attach the tool fixings. Think carefully how the tools are going to be held. The constant use will require the fixings to be appropriate and durable. We can supply are variety of clips, push & grip fixings as well as custom laser cut shelves, tool holders or frames. See here for examples 5S Tool clips


Once all your hard work has resulted in a great looking and functional shadow board that your colleagues will work to use now you need to locate in the right place. Shadow boards should not add waste to your process but eliminate time and cost from repetitive tasks. Designate that area and make sure the design of the board helps others indentify quickly what is being asked of them.



Its the analogy. “You cant see the wood for the trees” that springs to mind when it comes to creating a 5S shadowboard. But it doesnt have to be like hard work. Just attempt to divide the creation process into chunks and work out why you are organizing the tools and keep those goals in mind.

Capture tool image >

Convert into a silhouette/ shadow >

Change color of shadow shape >

Define the dimensions of the shape to reflect the true dimensions of the tool>(Rememember to leave a small offset around so the shadow can be seen in the background when the tool is on the board)

Apply to the substrate>

Attach the fixings>

A place for everything and everything in its place!

Experts in Effective Lean Manufacturing Open Los Angeles Division

Leaders in lean manufacturing solutions, Lean 5S Products, announce their expansion to a new division in Los Angeles, supplying their range of tool shadow boards to organizations looking to reduce waste, be more compliant and increase efficiency.

Developed by the Japanese, the 5S system utilizes five core pillars: sort, set in order, shine, standardize and sustain. An effective lean strategy has enormous scope for improving operations within the manufacturing sector across the US by creating safer, less cluttered and more organized working space as well as reducing production time.

Lean 5S Products design and create wall mounted, free standing or mobile 5S cleaning stations, production boards and their signature tool shadow boards. Every design is fully customizable to suit each client’s individual requirements, with a plethora of adaptable options and an array of materials.

Anna McCarthy, International Sales Manager said, “There is little doubt that every US manufacturer, whether they are a large established brand, public sector body or SME, can benefit from the addition of optimized processes and efficient practises to minimize waste. Our newly launched range of visual workplace solutions helps our clients to quickly and easily implement this ideology and promote a culture of ownership within the workplace”.

Lean 5S Products are committed to tailoring each solution to their customer and the fully collaborative team work cohesively to produce their bespoke shadow boards. Each customer is assigned to an allocated account manager, who will be on hand to assist through the entire process, liaising with the design team who can create bespoke shadows for specific tools.

All boards can be branded (including logos, colors, text and imagery) and clients are offered unlimited design revisions and support in their 5S lean journey.


Lean Vs Automation

Do Lean and Automation Go Together?

An important question to consider when going lean. Experts discuss top considerations for making new equipment and lean initiatives work together.

Lean automation means applying lean concepts where manual processes are best, and balancing these with the application of technology, but only where the use of technology really makes sense.

Some experts are adamant that the two don’t really belong together, but others believe the two can work together effectively in situations where lean processes efficiently feed automation, and automation supports the overall efficiency of the lean processes.

“I think lean and automation go together quite well because you are trying to boost production. I don’t know how you make a manufacturing company that is lean without automation,” stated Jim Gookin, technical troubleshooter for Viking Engineering.

In some cases, especially at sawmills and pallet plants today, labor shortages are pushing companies toward automation. And the shortages are not expected to get any better any time soon. A report released this spring by the research organization Conference Board predicted that several industries, including manufacturing, are about to experience a long period of labor shortage.

In the wood products industry, low-value added operations can more easily be automated than high-value ones, according to Henry Quesada-Pineda, an associate professor at Virginia Tech who specializes in continuous improvement and works with sawmills and secondary wood products companies as a consultant and on a variety of projects.

According to Quesada-Pineda, materials handling machines like conveyors or stacking equipment are good examples of tasks that can be automated while adhering to lean concepts. Automation may also make sense in visual inspection, such as lumber grading.

Gookin disagreed. He suggested, “In our industry, the high value is the pallet assembly side of the process. That’s a really good place to automate. The key question is, ‘How many pallets can you produce per hour per employee?’”

Every situation is different though, and you really have to take a look at your processes before rushing out and buying equipment. “One of the key ideas of lean is before you buy anything, like software and hardware, you really look at the process and try to improve it as it is,” said Quesada-Pineda. “There are a lot of things that you can improve with little or zero investment.”

For example, just by better organizing the work space, you might be able to improve your process by freeing up valuable space and making it faster and easier for workers to find and access what they need.

Gookin agreed that automation doesn’t necessarily solve problems if you have a poor process. You need to have a plan before you buy a new piece of equipment. He explained, “You must have the ability to support automation, whether it be lumber prep, moving pallets in and out, or whatever. Otherwise, you purchase a piece of equipment and don’t get the most out of it.”

One thing that automation does do is improve consistency of a product and dictate the speed of output. Gookin commented, “Automation makes it easier to create consistency and a simple process. You basically do the same thing every time. The nailing machine sets the pace and determines the nailing pattern and board placement.”

But Gookin warned, “You have to keep the machine running to get maximum efficiency. Even though the machine sets the pace, an operator can open a gate or hit a safety stop at any point and reduce efficiency.”

Involving everyone in the process is another important aspect of a lean industrial environment, he said. “You try to develop a system where people actually get involved by participating in training sessions and working together to try to solve problems.”

“If you are thinking you can just buy automation to fix the problem, it’s just going to exponentially make the problem worse,” Quesada-Pineda said. “What we know based on case studies is if you go directly into automation, things will be worse because you haven’t actually addressed the process which is the most important part.”

“In lean, the objective is simplification,” according to Bob Emiliani, a professor, author and expert in lean management, as well as a pioneer of lean leadership. “Lean is not pro automation or anti-automation.” However, he said it does tend to sway more toward anti-automation, than pro, but explained that it really depends on what you’re doing.

In real life things are a bit more complicated and each situation is unique. Like Quesada-Pineda, Emiliani advises companies to first figure out their processes, and how they can be simplified, and then figure out the equipment they need. Ironically, he said most companies do this the opposite way. They buy equipment and then try to figure out the process. “They end up spending 15-20 times the money. And automation and machinery often substitute for critical thinking,” said Emiliani.

The key to the process is to truly evaluate the situation to understand what could be done better. Emiliani explained, “One of the things that is a hallmark of lean is that people put in the effort to figure out whether or not it makes sense to automate. They have to ask ‘What’s the simplest way I can do something?’ People need to use their intellect and creativity to think about what their problems are, and not just go to an outside supplier of automation equipment.”

Greg Wine, president of Pallet Machinery Group, commented that lean and automation can go together because lean is about having things in the right place and that makes automation more efficient.

Wine added, “It all depends on the application. Sometimes automation makes things simpler due to repetitive motion. Other times automation can make things more complex, such as moving from manual to PC controls that can require a more technologically inclined worker.”

Much of the early work in lean practices has taken place in in the automotive industry with parts that are very similar made out of plastic or metal. Wine suggested, “Lean manufacturing in the pallet industry is worlds apart from the automotive sector. Every piece of wood is unique unlike automotive parts, which are supposed to be fairly uniform…You take cants – until you start sawing into it, you don’t know what is inside.”

Every application is unique requiring analysis from operators, managers, engineers and other experts. Just because you have always done something that way in the past doesn’t make it the right way to do something.

“Lean has a strong emphasis on engineering,” Emiliani said, encouraging manufacturers to “use your thinking to develop your own equipment, then you can manage and fix it yourself. Let’s say I need to drill a hole in something. There are complicated ways to do that with big expensive machinery, or I can use a simple drill head and combination to do the same job.”

Quesada-Pineda reminded that manufacturers also need to look at the future when considering automation. “You may see a cool machine that builds a pallet, but you have to stop and think if it’s going to fit your needs five years from now. Otherwise, purchasing it might limit your growth in the future. You have to have the flexibility to make changes as you need them.”

But when automating, as both Emiliani and Quesada-Pineda pointed out, you’re somewhat reliant on the third party equipment manufacturer, unless you’ve built the equipment yourself.

“Automation might mean re-work and less waste, but not necessarily,” Emiliani said of these two big benefits of automation that you often hear about. You really have to consider each situation, and weigh a number of factors, he said. One factor that can impact whether automation is the right solution is the volume of product you’re producing, and another is whether you’re producing a lot of the same product, or whether you fill a lot of mixed orders.

“Automation might work well when you don’t have a high level of customization,” said Quesada-Pineda, But when doing a lot of custom work, it might not work so well.

Gookin confirmed this tendency when he said most automated nailing lines need at least  a few hundred pallets per size/design to make the process worthwhile to do on a machine. Even if it only takes less than 10 minutes to changeover a machine, you still have to stage lumber and do other things that can add to the process.

Companies who want to go lean should begin by mastering the basic 5S tools – sort, set, shine, standardize and sustain, he said. “These don’t require a huge investment, but they do require discipline.”

Also, if you involve automation, it is a good idea to talk with the manufacturer to identify best practices. You want to know what is the optimum production rate for that machine, not the old line or doing it by hand. And if you are not able to meet those targets, you need to be looking for what could be contributing to poor production rates.

One way you can improve your output is through better lumber feeding. Gookin suggested, “You want to turn material the correct way. For example, with the old gang saws, you used to have steps in the lumber. You had to turn boards the right way or they would lock up. Steps are ridges in the boards that can hang up in the nailing machines.”

If your company seriously wants to transform and follow solid lean principles, Emiliani recommends that you also get advice from a kaizen consultant who has specific knowledge of process improvement.

Kaizen, which means “improvement” in Japanese, is the practice of continuous improvement in the business world. It was originally introduced to the West by Masaaki Imai of Japan, and really took off worldwide after being used successfully by Toyota.

Emiliani, who has written numerous books including “Better Thinking, Better Results,” recommends this book to those in the pallet industry because “it shows the approach to kaizan that one should take in order to get results. It’s a real life story of a real life company with real people,” he said.

Emiliani helps organizations by leading workshops, assisting in the development of lean leadership training programs, speaking at company meetings, and through lean leadership coaching.

Lean and automation can go together. And better management of all your assets will continue to be crucial to survive. Gookin concluded, “Right now you have the labor shortage, and the talent is not as good as it used to be in many places. Also, you are hearing more about $15 hour minimum wages, which will drive employee costs up. All of this will put more and more of a crunch on the pallet industry.”

Production Board

Hazards at the Huddle Board: Away From Fast Thinking, Toward Disciplined PDCA

As more companies use the huddle board approach for continuous improvement, people need to be aware of the pitfalls involved. “Often what’s picked up as a problem may be a nuisance or an inconvenience,’ says David Verble. ‘There is an attempt to make a general link between these problems and the priorities of the company.’

Attack of the road cones? Think 5S!

How Can Companies Using Road Cones Be More Organised? Answer, Our Cone Shadow Boards!

Roadworks can be quite a chaotic time. There are strict deadlines to adhere to, a lot of night work, and often a complete lack of organisation when it comes to tools and cones. This is not the fault of the workers; it is just one of those things that happens. However, there is a way to bring better organisation to your company when it comes to road cones (and other tools), and that is with our range of 5S shadow boards. Here, we are talking about what we do and the great new cone shadow boards we have to offer.


Us and Our Shadow Boards

We aim to provide you with great organisation solutions that will help your workers and your company. Shadow boards are a fantastic way to do this as they provide you with a simple and cost effective way to store tools in an easy to access location. The sections are clearly marked, so you know where each tool belongs. All of this is achieved using lean manufacturing, so it creates minimal waste.

Available for all sectors, they are ideal for use by just about everyone and can help boost motivation and productivity levels thanks to the speed at which they can find items. It’s a clever and effective method that has been shown to have great advantages over traditional methods such as peg boards.


Shadow Boards and Road Cones

Road cones can be tricky to organize, and many people would be surprised by the number of road cones that are used by companies. There is a whole range, all of which serve different purposes and are best used for specific situations. As a result, it can be a little tricky to keep things sorted and in their correct sections.

To prevent things getting mixed up and to ensure that road cones are kept in the right place, we have created the ideal tool shadow boards for your cones. This way, each section is made for a specific type of cone so that they are put in the right place after a job.

When this is done, it means that the area remains organised and that the cones can be found easily and quickly before work begins. This can save a lot of time and hassle, as when cones get mixed up a great deal of time can be spent desperately searching for them among piles of different cone types.

Better organisation leads to better timekeeping, which can then lead to deadlines being met and work not needing to go over. Organisation is often the key to success in a company, and with something as vast as road cones, it can be a vital factor when it comes to keeping on schedule.

To Conclude

We take pride in helping you achieve better levels of organisation in your company, and roadworks is a sector that often finds itself in need of an organisational hand. So, with our nifty new road cone shadow boards, we hope that you will experience a new level of organisation that really helps to boost productivity and business. Why not try it for yourself?

mobile cleaning station render

Traditional Pegboards vs Printed Shadow boards? Who wins? You decide.

Shadow boards and peg boards are frequently used both personally and professionally. They help to keep the workplace organised and all of your tools together so that you can locate them easily. When it comes to purchasing either a shadow board or a peg board, people often find themselves stopping to wonder which is best. After all, they both offer organisation benefits to a workplace. This article aims to take you through each product, as well as the advantages they could have for your workplace – helping you to decide which is right for you.

Origins of the Peg Board and Shadow Board

The traditional pegboard is a wooden board with holes in it where pegs can be placed so that tools can be hung from them. It is believed that the board was invented in 1897 by a medical doctor who sought to keep his instruments separated to prevent the spread of leprosy among his patients. Since then, it has been further used for work tools such as hammers and spanners, and can be made from any hardboard, ranging from wood to metal.

The shadow board was created with the concept of lean manufacturing in mind, something that sought to reduce the amount of waste created and increase company efficiency. The idea of lean manufacturing was thought of by Toyota, and the shadow board clearly implements this. The shadow board features a large piece of hardboard with the silhouette of the appropriate tools printed on the front. A clip is attached so that the tool can sit securely on it. They are incredibly popular in workplaces.

Advantages of the Peg Board

Typically, peg boards are more suited for gardening at home and other small projects, as they are not as efficient at organising the workplace. However, there are some great new steel option available that incorporate a colour coding system so that you can better organise your tools. Unfortunately, from a professional viewpoint, there are not many advantages to using the traditional peg board. If anything, they can be confusing and cause slower production if not used with a colour coding system.

Advantages of the Shadow Board

The shadow board has some great benefits. For one, it is less wasteful in terms of the manufacturing process, but also in terms of time as less of it is spent looking for the correct tool thanks to the shadows. They are also very inexpensive, and so quite cost effective for companies who are looking to provide organisation on a budget.

They come in a wide variety of sizes and for many different sectors, everything from cleaning to construction. You can even order ones that are custom made for the ultimate level of organisation. You are sure to see improved productivity and morale with this organisation system.

To Conclude

The shadow board is the best way to keep your workplace organised. While the option for the traditional peg board remains, unless you are using a colour coded system it is more likely to hurt the eyes of employees as opposed to keep them motivated. The shadow board assures maximum organisation which, in turn, boosts productivity and morale. The shadow board is a clear winner in this case.

Call us on 310-955-7472 if would like to discuss your customized shadow boards