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Shadow Board

Vishwadeep Khatri

Message added by Mayank Gupta,

Shadow Board is a box or a device or a visual board which describes the right place for each of the tool or items. It is a common tool used in 5S implementation.


An application-oriented question on the topic along with responses can be seen below. The best answer was provided by Meenakshi Iyer on 3rd Oct 2021.


Applause for all the respondents - Johanan Collins, Meenakshi Iyer, Mokshesh, Varuna Kakathkar, Saravanan MR, Mohammad Mahmudul Hassan.


Q 406. From putting the tools in order to helping organizations improve their profitability, Shadow Boards have come a long way. Explain a shadow board along with variants, and how can it be used to improve the workplace?


Note for website visitors - Two questions are asked every week on this platform. One on Tuesday and the other on Friday.

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Elimination of waste in Lean implementation has a very effective technique of 5S as: 


“A place for everything and everything in its place” if followed effectively would lead to immense elimination of waste. The time spent in searching the required material would lead to loss of time, energy, and wealth. It is important for us to have the most required material near users.

Shadow board helps us set the things in order and it provides a dedicates space for each material. It helps get the required material timely and once the usage of the material is completed it should be returned to its location immediately such that It can be easily found in next instance. Since the Shadow board has place for everything, if any material is missing it could be easily identifiable and necessarily refilled  

Shadow board usage would lead to

1)    Reduction of wait time

2)    Increase productivity and efficiency

3)    Since the missing piece is identified easily it eliminates errors of using incorrect tool

4)    Standardize, sustained mechanism of handling and maintaining materials

5)    Reduce cost of loss and re-purchase of material due to frequent monitoring

6)    Safe workplace as smallest tools which may be sharp are put back in their places avoiding injury

7)    Clear and tidy workplace




Shadow boards need to be set up considering following steps

a)    Chose the area/board/panel

b)    Arrange/Align the board basis the categorization/family/grouping of tools

c)     Carve/draw/measure/create area for the tools in the board

d)    Customize/color code / design the layout of the board, Visual display & document usage

e)    Arrange the shadow board for usage

Shadow boards are used in multiple functions/industries. Some examples are as follows:

These have been proven very useful for the respective business and service lines, contributed minimizing the error/rework/incidents and improving the effectiveness, efficiency and profitability of the business

The decision of alignment can be done using frequency of usage of tools as follows

a)    Tools which are never used = Remove from the shadow board and workplace

b)    Tools which are used rarely = Not to be a part of shadow board but put out of workplace

c)     Tools which are used sporadically= Not to be on shadow board but put in workplace

d)    Tools which are used frequently = Put on Shadow board – near the production/operation site

e)    Tools which are used always = Put on shadow board – reachable distance


Shadow boards are the very effective visual system to manage tools, parts, and consumables.


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Shadow Boards
The idea of Shadow Boards is an off-shoot of the 5S Lean Manufacturing Methodology. The implementation of 5S is generally the first step to reduce waste since it can be taken as independent, localized continuous improvements projects. Approvals for 5S Projects are at the lower level and even the individual level, hence they can be quickly implemented. 
ASQ defines the 5S process as follows 
•    Seiri: To separate needed tools, parts, and instructions from unneeded materials and to remove the unneeded ones.
•    Seiton: To neatly arrange and identify parts and tools for ease of use.
•    Seiso: To conduct a cleanup campaign.
•    Seiketsu: To conduct seiri, seiton, and seiso daily to maintain a workplace in perfect condition.
•    Shitsuke: To form the habit of always following the first four S’s.
Shadow Boards are applicable to the Second S of the 5S process. The Second S is to neatly arrange and identify parts and tools for ease of use. Shadow Boards are Boards that have either an outline, indentation, or painting of the tool or part that has to occupy that place. Some organizations may even use a wall as a shadow board. 
It is based on the concept, a place for everything, everything in its place. Shadow boards would not only save the time of retrieval, but it's location would also ensure ease of retrieval. New staff would find it easy to settle down into offices where shadow boards are used. Most importantly shadow boards would help the organization and individual to imbibe a culture of safety in the working environment. Shadow boards can be used at home, in offices, in factories, and various other workplaces. I have seen musicians using shadow boards to keep their musical instruments.








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What is a Shadow Board?

As an organization which is practicing lean principles, a shadow board becomes an important means of implementing continuous improvement practices and eliminating wastes. Shadow board is a simple and inexpensive tool to organize workplace tools in a production (manufacturing) and service environments. A shadow board helps in organizing and storing tools, supplies and equipment at appropriate locations close to the work area or work stations.

Shadow board helps in eliminating waste, such as:

1. Time for searching appropriate tool.

2. Wasted time in looking for interchanging tools and parts between tasks.

3. Identifying missing or broken tools/parts for re-order.

4. Identifying missing tools or parts for production.

Shadow boards are also used in the sort and set in order stages of the 5S implementation at a workplace and during kaizen initiatives.

Shadow boards can be of different sizes and located in many different areas of a process or plant. The key is that they are appropriately located and hold all the necessary tools for the area or work station. An illustration of a shadow board is as shown below:




Benefits of Shadow Board at Workplace

Shadow board offers below benefits that helps in improving the workplace.

1.  Helps in keeping right tool at right place at right time for doing right work.

2. Increases accountability amongst the shop floor employees to keep the work stations clean and identify missing parts.

3. Correct storage of tools leads to increase in useful life and savings of cost in long run.

4. Facilitates quality control through visual management.

5. Supports segregation of department and production line specific tools and simplifies the work station maintenance by putting right tools where they belong to on shadow board.

6. Improves safety at workplace when tools are accounted for and kept back to the designated place on shadow board. Randomly left tools can lead to accidents and injuries.

7. Frees up space by de cluttering the work station when all tools are kept back to its designated space on shadow board.

8. Promotes the culture of care, ownership and cleanliness which are essential for building a successful continuous improvement culture.





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Shadow Board is a device for  organizing process/tools/equipment or Instrument. This defines where the tools/equipment/Instrument to be kept when they are not in use. Shadow Boards have the outlines of tools/equipment/instruments marked on them and allows the user/operators to identify which tools are in use or missing. The use of this provides a visual aid in the shop floors.

Different Variants of Shadow Boards:


1)Cleaning Stations :These can be made in customized sizes and located at different areas of process or plant. They are appropriately located and hold all the necessary cleaning equipment for work area.




2)Tool Shadow Boards: By using these, probability of missing the tools/other items reduces drastically. It also results in time reduction for locating the items.

Reckitt Benckiser Tool Station


3)Lock Out Boards: This tool board houses lockout tagout devices in the operating premises.



4)PPE Boards: Talks about the various PPEs used in the site and it's place.



5)Production/DWM Boards: Shows the status of Key metrices of Process, Operations and Maintenance.



6)Part Changes Board: Displays about changes in the parts of the equipment if any!



7)Instrument Station: Displays about the type of various instruments used in the work area.









Benefits/Advantages of Using Shadow Boards:


1)Improves the Quality: Calibration of tools like Gauges, Calipers are easily located, hence calibration can be done on time lowering the errors.

2)Reduces Time: Operators do not waste their time in searching for tools and tackles.

3)Reduces Safety Hazards: Since tools and tackles are not kept here and there on the floor, chances of potential injuries will be less.

4)Reduces Costs: Replacement of missing tools and tackles gets reduces resulting in overall cost savings.

5)Increased Productivity: Productivity of the Organization increases, as it increases the productivity of the workers/operators.

6)Easy Traceability: Since everything is placed in it's place tracing will be very easy.

7)Maximized Space Utilization: Since the tools and tackles are not kept here and there we can utilize the maximum space for the operations.

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  1. What is shadow board:


The shadow board is a visual board to set up tools. The outline or shadow of the tool is drawn or printed on the board to make sure the tool is kept over the specific location of the shadow when not in use. This system allows operators to locate the tools very quickly and ensure that “place for everything and everything in their place”. As part of lean and 5 S implementation the shadow board plays a key role in reducing time, more visibility, clean environment and improving safety employee satisfactions. 


It is used in manufacturing and service sectors aiming to organize the workplace in a better way to improve efficiency, safety, housekeeping and visual management. Human beings react quickly with pictures rather than statements or stickers. 




  1. Shadow board usage in different work locations:

Shadow / Kaizen foam board:

The drawing of the tool can be printed on the board or shadow foaming board also can be used. The foaming board is made with two colors one for background and another one color for tool cavity / impression so that the missing tools can be identified quickly. Nowadays most of the tool boxes come with tool cavity / impression so that missing tools can be identified quickly also to ensure place for everything's and everything in their place concept. The foam board is also called Kaizen foam board, Mostly in lean manufacturing companies tool box / drawers with kaizen foam board. 




Shadow board - Safety -  LOTO (Lockout and Tagout):

It is very much useful for safety dept. too, LOTO shadow board is widely used in industries today, This board shall ensure availability of all kinds of LOTO system and very much visual control.




Industrial hygiene area:

The board is used in industrial hygiene tools storage as well, You can see the below pic for the same. The shadow board is used in many industries for visual management to improve the efficiency and effectiveness.




  1. Preparation of shadow board:

  • Step 1: Select the right material with appropriate slots or holes


  • Step 2: Arrange the tools in proper way 


  • Step 3: Make border or outline the tools with permanent marker


  • Step 4: Hang the tools and use it in appropriate way



  1. The following shall be ensured:

  • Which tools are most frequently used shall be identified and placed

  • Quick reach location

  • Appropriate and more visible area

  • Ensure nearest to the workplace

  • Avoid more than one step to remove the tool / quick pick system

  • Keep some space between the tools so that it will be easy for pickup and place it again

  • Ensure proper fixing of the board to avoid any safety incident as many tools shall lead to increase the weight of the board.

  • Dust and dirt free location, frequent cleaning is required.

  • If needed, the shadow or cavity + name of the tool can be printed on the board if the board is shared with other colleagues for easy understanding.

  1. The key benefits of Shadow board:

  • Improvement in productivity 

  • Clear visibility and systematic storage

  • Quick traceability

  • Accountability is ensured

  • Optimum space utilization

  • Saving of time

  • Error reduction

  • Improve tools life 

  • Reduction in tools replacement cost

Thanks for reading :)


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Shadow board in Lean 5S, is a board for organizing a set of tools. This board normally uses in the production floor.  This board is also works as an organizer of the tools where particular tools should be placed when they are used or they are not used. The shadow boards having the outlines of a work stations tools marking on them. This allows operators to identify quickly the required particular tools are in use of missing.  Normally the boards are located near the work station it will be used. 



Fig: Shadow Board


Usually shadow boards are used in the manufacturing environment as a part of the lean six sigma capabilities improvement.  Shadow board reduces the searching time to look for the tools. This creates an organized and productive workplace.


Shadow Foam: Recently, Shadow boards is adapting to utilize tool called shadow foam and utilizing the process of shadow foaming. This was initially introduced in aviation and aerospace. The shadow foaming process around tools that silhouette to create a cut out in foam. Shadow Foam consisting of 2 color foam where the top layer is a different color to the rest of the foam. This enables an instant visual indication of a missing tool. Customizable foam creating a tool organization system to prevent tools from missing. The foam also protects toolbox tools from damage.




Fig: Shadow Foam



Lean 5S shadow board:

This is the human behavior that people respond to images faster than words, Visual management and control monitors processes/activities without any or less communication and without any error such as shadow board. That successful implementation of shadow board can bring many operational benefits, but broadly we have divided them into six of the most important. They are safetyspaceproductivity, defective items, increased workplace satisfaction.

Improved Safety:

Safety is the most important factor of all. Tools should be kept in safe areas otherwise it can potentially cause harm to employees.  Shadow boards are introduced for the purpose of the safety purposes of tools and employees.

Due to the shadow board organizing tools which ensures less contribution of workplace accidents and make employees feel more confident and safer. This ensures boosting in morale and output. Moreover, a happy and safe workforce is a productive workforce.  Furthermore, if team remain healthy then there will be more people available to complete jobs and increase output.

Increased Space:

Famous quote “A place for everything and everything in its place”.  By adding tools in Lean 5S shadow boards that frees up space all around the premises. This freed space can be used more effectively for other purposes. In turn, increasing profit levels. We can use the space to stock more products and use it for future training purposes of the business. Studies shows that clutter can slow down manufacturing and production that leading to mistakes and therefore low quality output.

Increased Productivity:

If tools and equipment is mounted properly on a Lean 5S shadow board, this reduces search time to look for tools around workplaces.  Hence in turn leads to more time spent in productive working, as a result productivity will increase. The goal of shadow boards is to help our customers with a small change which can make a huge difference. Making tools nearer and accessible means employees can complete more jobs sooner rather than having to search for them.

 Identified Defective items:

Lean 5S shadow boards are designed such as way that all tools should be clearly visible when any item is missing or whether any tools have been lost or damaged or broken. This will alert about the real situation of the production system and help us to prevent a fall in production or stoppages due to faulty equipment.

When the equipment has been replaced or fixed or repaired, these are added to the shadow board and build companies stock, meaning business can carry on as usual.

Increased workplace Satisfaction:                          

LEAN 5S Shadow system will reduce the odds of companies having disorganized workplaces. If workplaces are not kept neat and clean, that can heavily damage morale among employees. Shadow boards are proven, clean and organized workplaces where employees will feel better, comfortable and creates smiling faces that ensures more fluid workspace. There is huge impact on branding of the company culture and making employees feel proud of their work places.

Continuous improvement and Economic View:

Most companies searching for a competitive edge 5 S will reduce cost increase sale and more agile in the VUCA world. Lean 5S tools are a systematic approach that results a clean, safe work place, and well organized to reduced waste and enhance productivity.  our customers to reap the benefits of an organized and clean workspace if the Shadow boards and production boards are used correctly. So, we can assess our business and decide on the best solution to maximize organizational efficiency.  Shadow board can have significant impact on the continuous improvement initiatives and maximize the productivity and save a huge money.



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Most of the answers have highlighted the most common usage of a Shadow Board i.e. in 5S implementation. However, Shadow Boards are also used in organizations to keep a tab on the underlying themes rather than the superficial trends with respect to customer behavior and youth preferences. From the published answers, the winning answer has been written by Meenakshi Iyer.


P.S. I notice that a lot of respondents have sourced images. It would be nice to mention the reference to the images so that due credit can be given.

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