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What is a shadow board and how does it work?


If your company is on a journey to lean manufacturing, then you will probably have heard of the term “shadow board” and most likely have seen them in use at other factories. The purpose of this article is to explain what a shadow board is, how it works and how you too can make the perfect shadow boards for your factory.




What is a shadow board?

Shadow boards have been in use for decades and have been used by the smallest companies right up to the army and other military parties. A shadow board is literally a board for hanging your tools on, which has a shadow or an image of the tool directly behind where the tool is positioned. Shadow boards are usually made from a waterproof composite material and can be freestanding or wall mounted. Sometimes there is no board used at all and the shadows are fixed directly to the wall behind. Usually if a company is on a lean journey, one of the first things they do, is sort and set in order as part of their 5S program.

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What is the purpose of a shadow board?

A military serviceman once told me that a shadow board in the military can be a lifesaver. The purpose of a shadow board is to be able to visually and quickly check that all the necessary and needed tools for your particular job are in place and have not gone walkies. It can save you huge amounts of time from not having to dig out missing tools and can save thousands of pounds in replacement tools.


How big is a shadow board?

Shadow boards can be manufactured to any size depending on the requirements of the customer,cleaning station products shadow board but typically they would be 850 mm wide by 1700 mm high. However, they can be manufactured to any shape or size. The most common type of shadow board are cleaning stations, which consist of several brushes (different sizes), a shovel, a dustpan and brush and sometimes a squeegee. Some of the more advanced shadow boards are used for power tools and expensive hand tools and can be made anti-static to protect tools from electrostatic discharge. These boards can often incorporate the Clarity tag system as well which means users who take the tools have to use their tag to remove the tool and replace it. This prevents expensive hand tools going missing, and promotes accountability in the team.


What’s the best way to fix the tools to a shadow board?

Often companies making their own shadow boards use a snap-in clamshell type tool holder. These look good and are effective at holding tools in place. The downside to this type of tool holder is that it may fail a BRC audit as it may not be easy to clean it properly. We prefer to use a welded stainless-steel hook mounted on a back plate which simply slots into place. The advantage of this type of tool holder is that it can be easily and thoroughly cleaned and, should the tool holder break, it is easily replaced.

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How much does a shadow board cost?

The answer of course is, it depends because there are so many variables. For example, a waterproof composite material is obviously going to cost more than a sheet of laminated plywood. Stainless-steel plate mounted hooks are going to cost more than a snap-in clamshell holder and then it depends if you want the shadow board wall-mounted, mobile or freestanding. Some customers require an array of color-coded tools to be supplied with the shadow board as well. A typical wall mounted shadow board without tools at 1200x1000mm starts from £200 per board (plus artwork and delivery). A larger tool board without tools at 1800x1200 cost nearer £400 (plus artwork and delivery). However tool boards with a large amount of hooks required, or tools required as well, can cost anywhere from £700 - £1,300.


How do I make a bespoke shadow board for my tools?

If you want to create your own shadow board or you have some non-standard tools that you require a board for, it is very easy to have a shadow board manufactured to your own requirements. Simply request a photography sheet using this form here, take each of your tools and take a picture of each tool from 1m to 2m away and submit the photos to Clarity. From this our graphic design department will produce your dream shadow board! 

If you have standard tools you are using, you can also use our drag and drop tool board creator by clicking the link here.

Tool Board Creator

In conclusion, shadow boards are an essential component for any company on a lean manufacturing journey. They offer a practical and efficient solution for tool organisation, ensuring that all necessary tools are readily available and accounted for. Remember, shadow boards can save you time, reduce your lost-tool costs and enhance your productivity. At Clarity, we have produced hundreds of shadow boards for companies across the UK and Ireland, and have a vast library of examples. So what next?


Read the tool photography guide here.

Request a Tool Photography Sheet to be sent to you by clicking here.