Shadow Board For Tools Guide: All the Basics You Need to Know

shadowboard system for tools

Imagine a workplace where there is little to no organizational policy implemented. Be it in the healthcare industry, food industry, or electronics industry, employers are working and they would have to stop to look for tools; or emergency situations arise and no one is ready because tools and equipment are nowhere to be found; or accidents happen because appropriate tools aren’t available. Or simply imagine a work desk where all your stuff is cluttered. Things would likely turn into a disaster when there is no proper organization implemented.

Establishing and maintaining an organization in a workplace is a necessity. It is beneficial both for the employer and the employee, ensuring that the business is highly efficient, employees are engaged, and no unnecessary waste. One of the most effective strategies to establish and maintain organization in industrial workplaces such as electronics, construction, mining, and manufacturing industry, is using a tool shadow board system. Using a shadow board for tools isn't only for 5S compliance; there's more to its benefits than one believes.

What is a 5S Strategy?

what is 5s strategy for shadowboard

Developed in Japan by Toyota, 5S is an innovative management system for organizing workplaces. It aims to eliminate waste, improve flow, and reduce the number of processes if possible. This system applies the 5 Principles: Sort, Set In order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain. Implementing 5S is essential because it can lead to more efficient ways of operating the workplace.


Implies eliminating unnecessary tools, materials, and parts. In this step, only essential items are kept, and everything else is stored or discarded.

Set In Order

This step means arranging tools, materials, and parts in an order that the most used items are the easiest to locate. With this, you can eliminate time wasted in obtaining items for operation.


This step involves cleaning the workspace and all equipment and keeping the workspace clean, tidy, and organized. With this, it is easier to know that everything is stored where it belongs.


This step ensures identity in workstations and that everyone knows exactly their responsibilities.


Once the first 4 steps are established, the next step is to ensure that standards are maintained and reviewed. It is essential to conduct regular reviews of the procedures and tools for necessary changes and continuous improvement.

What is a Shadow Board System?

A solution for tool management and control, Shadow Board System is a technique to enable an organized workplace. Shadow Board System organizes and secures devices in a visually optimized way for easy retrieval and access. Shadow Boards are storage boards for tools, supplies, and equipment used in production, manufacturing, and service work environments of different industries.

Shadow boards system aims to achieve an organized workplace where pieces of equipment, tools, and supplies are stored in appropriate areas close to the work area or work stations. Often, shadow boards are used for grouping tools wherein their locations are marked. They can be of different sizes and should hold all the necessary tools for a specific work area.

2 Types of Shadow Board for Tools

Shadow board systems can be of two types - Shadow Board or Shadow Foam. Shadow boards for tools are usually in a vertical position and are made of wood, metal, or acrylic frames. Tools are hung and when a tool is taken from the board, an employee has to place his tag (name or number) on the pivot for identification and tracking of the tool’s location.

On the other hand, shadow foam is made of control foam, cut with the tool’s exact dimension. Shadow foam is covered with a robust box for portability and protection. In comparison with shadow boards, shadow foam is used for more expensive and sensitive tools which require frequent calibration and thorough monitoring.

Essential Elements of a Tool Shadow Board

Employers can work productively by significantly reducing waste and an effective way to do that is to visually optimize your shadow boards. Here are three essential elements of a tool shadow board:

ID Tag

Labeling the tools on the tool shadow board makes it easier even for people unfamiliar with the company’s system to locate and return items to their designated places. It also helps with sustaining organizational systems in the workplace on a daily basis. This way, even if the worker doesn’t know or forgets the location of the tool, the answer is visible.

Color Code

Enhancing the visual standards of shadow boards helps overcome verbal and written communication barriers. Color coding in shadow boards promotes easier identification and grouping of tools.

Tool’s Shadow

Tool outlining is an effective way to make organization more visual, making it easier for workers to observe organization procedures without too much thought. This way, workers can return tools to their proper place even if they forgot the color code or name of the tool.

What are the Advantages of Using Shadow Boards?

advantages of using a shadow board

Systematic Storage

Given the number of padlocks, tags, lockout hasps, lockout devices, manufacturing tools, and all other production-related tools, it is not surprising to have them misplaced or worse, lost. It can be frustrating and can cause industry hazards. Hence, it is critical to guarantee that there's a place for everything, and everything should be in its place.

The tool shadow board system promotes an organized system making things easily accessible when needed. Utilizing this would also indicate visual identification of the status of the tools whether they are in use or missing, thus eliminating the need for workers to search around. Moreover, shadow boards promote organization and order in the workplace since each device can only be returned in its appropriate space.

Standardization and Effective Visual Solutions

Visual solutions are always more effective than any other medium when it comes to communication. The Shadow Board System's advantage is that it can utilize details such as branding, color, logo, visual instructions, names of workers, etc., making it more visually attractive and easy to understand.

Shadow boards help standardize your entire color-coding plan, making it easy for any worker to hop in at any station and understand the color codes and know what tools go where even if they aren’t familiar with that station or its tools. This also helps in recognizing the tools they need and easily finding where to return them based on the tool outline. Employees would also most likely respond quicker if their brains associate a color on the shadow board with a tool. This is great for new employees and even for a multilingual workforce. With this, you can display the quality of your standards and company message in a highly visible way. Shadow boards for tools often have usage instructions indicated alongside, which is another way to serve as a reminder when a device or tool is used.

Improved Employee Productivity

Cluttered manufacturing usually slows down production and leads to preventable mistakes, sometimes even accidents. It is often a waste of time to look for a needed tool when there's no particular place to locate them. Imagine if it happens once a day, consuming at least five minutes to look for the tool, over a month. Well, that time adds up and may result in additional operating costs. Using Tool Shadow Board can help workers track the whereabouts of particular tools and devices. This way, employees can save time and can work more productively.

Easy Traceability and Cost-Efficient

Finding a particular device or realizing that it has gone missing is never difficult when there is an assigned storage area for it. Keeping track of the whereabouts of workplace tools helps to quickly spot missing or broken devices, which eventually results in immediate repairs or replacement.

Aside from that, some workers could quickly recognize that an operation is taking place if there is an empty slot on the tool shadow board. With a Tool Shadow Board, companies can keep track of essential tools, ensuring there are backup solutions implemented in case a breakdown occurs or if tools are in use.

Shadow Board is also a great advantage in tool inventory. A clear inventory of tools means keeping track of the item and thus reducing duplication of tools and unnecessary constant replacement. Companies can eliminate unnecessary spending and enforce a more cost-efficient workplace.

Strengthened Accountability

Having a specific storage place would make workers feel accountable for the equipment. They will feel the need to clear the equipment or area for regular use and return the tools to where they are supposed to be. In this system, devices can be safely and securely kept without the constant reminders of supervisors.

Promote Safety

Another benefit of shadow boards is that it promotes safety both for the tools and employees. Tools should be stored in secure areas; otherwise, they can cause potential harm to workers. When workers are unable to find the appropriate tool for a task, they may resort to utilizing an alternative that is often inappropriate or not in good condition. This compromises the safety of workers as it can possibly lead to accidents.

Using a tool shadow board also means a more organized workstation thus lesser chances of running into, tripping over, grabbing the wrong item, catching on fire, or any other type of damage. Moreover, it also reduces the risk of slip-and-fall accidents, malfunctions, and other issues. This way, employees would feel more confident and safer.

Aside from the safety of employees, the tool shadow board also guarantees the safety of tools. Some tools items can be easily damaged when improperly stored which is problematic especially when the cost of the item is high.

How to Build Your Own Shadow Board For Tools?

1. Decide which tools you need

A tool shadow board should not have more than what is required in a specific workstation nor have less than what is needed. Gather all your tools first so you can decide which will go on the shadow board. Choose only the essential ones and make sure to position your tools as close as possible to the workstation.

2. Decide on the panel type and its location

Once you’ve already chosen the tools that will be placed on your shadow board, the second step is to choose the material your shadow board will be made of. Some of the pegboards are made out of metal, plastic, plywood, or acrylic. Each of these materials has its own advantages and drawbacks to study and consider. For example, although metal is long-lasting, easy to clean, and gives a stylish look, it conducts electricity. Hence, choosing it requires extra precautionary measures.

Aside from the materials mentioned above, shadow boards can also be made out of foam. You can store your fragile tools or parts on shadow foam with a wheel-mounted cart or rack. When using foam for your pegboard, decide on the grade of foam you will have. Just keep in mind that the more porous the foam is, the more difficult it will be to cut.

When choosing the material you will use, make sure to consider the number of items and the shadow board’s location. The location should be accessible, more visible, near the work area and if possible, dust and dirt-free.

3. Draw the outline of your Tool Shadow Board

Set your tools on the panel to utilize the space in the most optimal way. Try a few configurations before coming up with the final position.


Tools and devices are assets of the company, and it's necessary they are properly stored and maintained. Every workplace industry is unique with its own distinct requirements and demands in every aspect, such as tool management. In this area, the most effective solution for most companies involves the use of shadow boards.

Implementation of shadow boards is an innovative, cost-effective, and time-saving investment. It delivers efficiencies that can benefit everyone. Moreover, with the strong requirement of the government for a safer workplace, one can never afford to be complacent when it comes to organization. No matter how big or small the company is, properly implementing the shadow board system is a huge advantage.

The material provided in this article is for general information purposes only. It is not intended to replace professional/legal advice or substitute government regulations, industry standards, or other requirements specific to any business/activity. While we made sure to provide accurate and reliable information, we make no representation that the details or sources are up-to-date, complete or remain available. Readers should consult with an industrial safety expert, qualified professional, or attorney for any specific concerns and questions.


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Author: Herbert Post

Born in the Philadelphia area and raised in Houston by a family who was predominately employed in heavy manufacturing. Herb took a liking to factory processes and later safety compliance where he has spent the last 13 years facilitating best practices and teaching updated regulations. He is married with two children and a St Bernard named Jose. Herb is a self-described compliance geek. When he isn’t studying safety reports and regulatory interpretations he enjoys racquetball and watching his favorite football team, the Dallas Cowboys.