shadow boards at alcatraz

5S is important. I have many articles which you can review on the subject if you would like. I heard a story that I was not familiar with the other day around shadow boards: Alcatraz used shadow boards! For those of you not aware what that was, it was “acquired by the United States Department of Justice on October 12, 1933, and the island became a Federal Bureau of Prisons federal prison in August 1934. Alcatraz was designed to hold prisoners who continuously caused trouble at other federal prisons.[23]… During the 29 years it was in use, the jail held some of the most notorious criminals in American history,[7] such as Al CaponeRobert Franklin Stroud (the Birdman of Alcatraz), George “Machine Gun” KellyBumpy JohnsonRafael Cancel Miranda (a member of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party who attacked the United States Capitol building in 1954),[25] Mickey CohenArthur R. “Doc” BarkerJames “Whitey” Bulger, and Alvin “Creepy” Karpis (who served more time at Alcatraz than any other inmate)” (Wikipedia)

So, considering what it was, the importance of 5S becomes even more clear. The use of shadow boards were based on a life and death nature – ensuring that each tool was always where it was needed to be. Lives could depend on it. Consider what uses a shadow board could have in your organization? At the beginning of each shift you can identify that each part required is available, and in addition, at the end of the shift each part has been properly returned. When I first thought of this type of board I considered my attempts to disassemble and reassemble machinery. It would seem that each time – I was missing a … [insert a tool or part here]. It never failed. Post assembly something was always missing. In an industry that makes consumables this could be much more important so that machinery is not damaged or product integrity is kept. In a shop – it would probably be very beneficial to ensure that each tool is returned due to high costs, or reduction of potential damage if the wrong part or tool was left inside. But it is much more than that.

In a previous example, I used a cross word to demonstrate 5S. Now, just think about a tool box. How much time would it take you to find the proper tool if no drawers were labeled or organized? If the metric sockets and standard sockets were mixed up? Not to mention if they are 1/2″ or 1/4″. If the tools in the box, were organized and had a shadow for quick placement – how much quicker could you use and put the tool back? The efficiency gained (if you do not practice this) would be substantial.

I challenge you to take a tool box, or a supplies cabinet / drawer and adapt 5-S. Try a shadow board for ease of picking and replacing. After you have tried it – let me know what you think. What did you find out?

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