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What is the role of the Waterspider in a lean manufacturing structure

Water spider is a term that refers to a specific person whose main job is to take care of intermittent tasks such as supplying material at workstations.

Like during a surgery the assisting personal are like water spider, they allow the surgeon to perform the added value task with no distraction.

[caption id="attachment_21927" align="alignnone" width="814"] The key to adding value tasks without distractions[/caption]

The rationale behind the water spider in the factory is similar where it allows the rest of the personnel to devote their full attention to added value tasks.

The Water Spider position is often confused with a simple material handler but in a lean manufacturing layout, a water Spider must be intimate with the process or work cell they support, not just a pick-up-and-drop-off handler.
The tasks of a water Spider
Water Spider is the go-to person when there is an out-of-cycle task, for example:

supply raw materials and parts,
transport finished goods away from the work area,
remove waste,
move Kanban cards,
update status boards,
pack materials to be taken away,
replace tools
help with changeovers,

keep an eye on less experienced personnel.

[caption id="attachment_21939" align="alignnone" width="2260"] Water Spider is the go-to person in a well organized area[/caption]


[caption id="attachment_21933" align="alignnone" width="2260"] A water Spider must be intimate with the process or work cell they support[/caption]

Water spider needs to make sure that the production flow is uninterrupted, and worker are only devote added value tasks.

When a particular worker doesn’t have to take care of auxiliary tasks, they can concentrate on their own productivity. they can become more efficient at adding value.

They should visit the workstations and operators in the same order and at similar intervals. The speed and frequency of their rounds should be dictated by the needs of the process.
The analogy with the insect
Water spider is “mizusumashi” in Japanese and is often used even in English meaning “make water cleaner” or “purify water”.

[caption id="attachment_21930" align="alignnone" width="2560"] Water spiders are representing by Water beetle, notable for their divided eyes.[/caption]

Water spiders are representing by Water beetle, notable for their divided eyes and that dives into fresh water but does not stay into water. The water spider dives into the process, gets close to the cell, even goes into the cell to do occasional relief work for operators. Specifically, the Whirligig beetle is known for their habit of swimming rapidly in circles… and for their gregarious behavior…and are also notable for their divided eyes which are believed to enable them to see both above and below water”.

And If employees don’t like the name why not using Point of use Provider.
How to boost productivity
While some floor managers might feel the urge to put a not-so-skilled worker in this position, this is not a good idea:

In order for a water spider to really boost productivity, they need to have a great working understanding of the whole process, and need to be able to read the whole work space.

Here are some important requirements for the job They should be helpful at every workstation they service, and this requires knowledge of all processes and great work experience.

They should be first to notice when problems arise, and this requires good working relationships with management, to raise the issue.
They should help with the unexpected and know about the challenges faced in the day-to-day work. at stations and this require to communicates well, gets along with everyone to help
They should move, lift, transport and do a lot of walking requiring to the water spider to be in good shape Be in good shape to walk, lift, and move material.

The Japanese Influence
[caption id="attachment_21921" align="alignnone" width="900"] Taiichi Ohno, le père fondateur de la démarche Lean[/caption]

Some sensei say that Water Spider role is a “right of passage” to becoming a supervisor.

This is why it makes a lot of sense, to treat the position as a way to groom a future team leader, supervisor or manager, instead of a “go-fer” or “catch all” job.
Elements of success

Both the water spider and the other workers Everyone should have a clear idea of what the water spider is there to do and not to do. : Managers might view water spiders as auxiliary, and therefore secondary in priority.
This might lead to assigning them fill-in tasks, which might end up hurting the productivity of the whole facility. Don’t treat the water strider as a floater, or as an excess person.
Depending on the size of the work area and the material demands, a water spider may not perform that role full time but their rounds should still be made at regular intervals, though, to keep operators from running out of parts.
A clear process flow and defined work sequence (clear flowing water) is required to design the workload of the Water Spider position.
To begin, the role should be tested out on a small scale to get a feel for how to use this position. The key is structure. They must make the rounds in sync with the pace of production.
You might find that Water spider might do to many empty rounds at first and feel that there is inefficiency to work on. However, you should try to optimize the system first not the water spider time. It can be deemed acceptable as long as the water spider manages to help boost the efficiency of the whole operation.

Extra recommendations!
[caption id="attachment_22003" align="alignnone" width="2560"] Spaghetti diagram[/caption]

For every workstation on the assembly line create a spaghetti diagram of the stock replenishment path
Work on small and regular milk runs
Clock the water spider with a pedometer to log the typical distance travel and ask how this could be improve – Alex en train de marcher dans un long corridor
Supermarket should be not too far from the assembly line. There may be more than one supermarket for longer lines.
An exhausted water spider is a good sign that something is wrong. And at this point he might know be able to see clear.

You should be able to see how having a well-functioning water spider can boost overall efficiency and potentially calculate an ROI to present to management. Furthermore, isolating the auxiliary tasks mostly transportation and movement waste in a single place will help to examine them and possibly reduce or eliminate them.

Flexpipe Modular industrial pipe racking system can help you with implementing continuous improvement principles. Your team’s creativity can result in a 10% increase in productivity per year. It has been a proven system for more than 50 years now.


Pipes and joints systems vs. T-slot aluminium profiles: Comparing modular systems

Pipes and joints systems vs. T-slot aluminium profiles: Comparing modular systems

Many engineers are making the mistake of using T-slot aluminum extrusions everywhere on their production line. Here's how to avoid creating overkill, overbuilt, and overpaid structures.

This guide will cover the following:

What Are the Advantages of Each System?
How to Choose a Modular Systems?
What Type of Structure do You Want to Build?
What Loading Capacity Do You Need?
Does Your Structure Will Evolve Over Time?
What's Your Budget?
Is the Aesthetics a Priority?

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What Are the Advantages of Each System?
These modular systems should not be considered competitors because they have their unique advantages and should be used in deferent situations. Because T-slot aluminum constructions are sturdier and more precise, they are an obvious choice for production systems involving robotics and automation. On the other hand, the pipe and joints system, perfectly embody the Lean Manufacturing concept. It's simple to assemble and customize while also been more affordable.

Pipes and Joints

Much lower pricing
Structures can be assembled faster
Easy to design and assemble
Order online
Structures can be easily tested, improved and adapted for lean purposes

T-slot Aluminum Extrusions

Heavier load/charging capacity
Make sturdier structures that can take rapid and repetitive movements
Modern and sleek style 
More precision
Ideal for jigs and robotics
More components and parts to integrate robotics and automation systems

How to Choose a Modular Systems?
When analyzing different modular system options to implement or adapt a production line, a lot must be considered. Maximizing a production floor's efficiency, ensuring employees are working in a safe, ergonomic manner, and ensuring the production blueprint can be adapted over time are key points to keep in mind throughout the conceptualization process.

While both T-slot aluminum profiles such as 80/20's or Vention's and tubular systems like Flexpipe's offer great solutions to manufacturers and design engineers. The products have unique characteristics that will influence how they will be of better use in a production context.

What Type of Structure do You Want to Build?
Because T-slot aluminum constructions are sturdier, they are an obvious choice for production systems involving robotics and automation. 

They are made with refined equipment that can offer very tight tolerances. Their durable and resistant nature can also support a variety of robotic applications facing rapid and repetitive movement, such as:

Framing for robotic mounting structures
Jigs and fixtures
Automation systems
High precision conveyor systems or assembly station

It's A Matter of High Precision
There is an intubation space of 1 inch in the tubular system when you insert the pipes into the fittings -even if the tubes should be fully inserted. This remaining space makes the assembly process easier by giving a margin of error for small cutting or design mistakes. 

While this detail might come in handy in some contexts, the facts remain: tubular structures are not as precise as aluminum framing systems. 
The tubes and fittings structures are more adapted to other types of use. 
Here are a few examples of various material handling systems that would be more efficiently built with pipes and joints than aluminum extrusions.  

It would be considered "overkill, overbuilt and overpaid" if you consider building the following structure with aluminum extrusions:

Flow racks 

Return lines for empty containers to ensure continuous production. 
Supermarket racks to have stock nearby.
L-shaped flow racks for the proximity of parts.
One-piece flow conveyor stations for lean manufacturing.
Gravity-fed workstations to free up floor space.

For more information on flow racks, check out this article on the most common types of modular gravity flow racks and how they can increase production line efficiency.


Adaptable racks.
Shelving with added value. 
WIP racks to reduce defects.
Storage racks are intended as a poka-yoke.

For more information on racks, check out this guide on the most popular modular industrial racks and shelving systems.

Workstations and workbenches 

U-Cell stations will improve your lead time. 
Ergonomic stand-up stations and work centers are great to have task-relevant information nearby. 
Personalized adjustable working tables are perfect to meet your worker's needs. 
ESD workstations to reduce defects.

For more information on workstations and workbenches, check out this guide on the different types of custom-made industrial workstations & workbenches.

Modular boards

Point-of-use or shadow boards.
Rotating cube and 8-faced boards.
Meeting space.
1, 2, 3, or 4 sided boards.

For more information on boards, check out these types of modular boards.


Kitting carts.
Tuggable carts.
WIP carts
Warehouse picking carts.
Truck carts.

For more information on carts, check out this guide on the popular types of carts for industrial material handling.

What Loading Capacity Do You Need?
The most robust structures made with the pipe and joint systems can support a maximum charge of 2000 pounds!

Pipe and joint systems like Flexpipe mostly use 28 mm OD pipes, with or without plastic coatings. The thickness of the pipes generally varies between 1 and 2 mm, providing various solidity levels which can be adapted to the project's specifications. But since the tube's diameter stays the same, Flexpipe structures will never be as strong as aluminum extrusions structures. The metal joints and various fasteners also contribute to the strength of the frame.

For more information on loading capacities, check out this guide created to help you calculate the modular structures' loading capacity.

Being able to choose between different sizes of profiles ranging from 20 millimeters square to as large as 180 by 360 millimeters makes t-slot profiles a perfect option for projects involving very heavy loads.

T-slotted aluminum profiles are offered in different types and sizes, the most popular being the 6063-T5, often ranging from 1 X 1" to 1,5 X 1,5" inches. The choices in inch or millimeter square make it an excellent choice for light to heavy-duty framing projects.

According to this article on Formaspace, the biggest aluminum profiles used to make 80/20 extruded frames carry very heavy charges: 6105-T5 aluminum alloy has a tensile strength of 35,000 lbs. per square inch! 

Does Your Structure Will Evolve Over Time?
Because of the lower costs of pipes and fittings "modular systems" and the simplicity of the tubular approach, tests can be carried out more easily before implementing new structures. Manufacturers can, therefore, quickly reconfigure a wide range of assembly line components based on feedback, with minimal capital outlay. 

Engineers can spend more time brainstorming and continually optimizing assembly processes. Rather than designing each structure from scratch, resulting in higher employee satisfaction and optimization of the production process!

Because pipes and fittings systems are more straightforward and involve fewer components, it's easier for engineers to shop online, figure out how they can use the product for their specific needs, and become creative more quickly! 

It's also easier for employees working on the assembly lines to get involved in the optimization process, stay proactive, and improve their work tools. Which is excellent for professional satisfaction and motivation!

Since the cost is higher, the testing part becomes more expensive and financially risky with the aluminum extrusion profiles. Making the whole testing and trying process more complicated than it is with the tubular system. This constraint tends to result in a longer, more complex planning process when creating new modular structures. 
Adapting and Evolving: a Constant Concept
Perfectly embodying the Lean Manufacturing concept, the Flexpipe production systems can easily be adapted to follow the production's new needs and reality. The simplicity of the structures ensures that any changes can be applied quickly and tested right away, thus leaving room for errors and constant improvement along the way.

Modifying already existing T-slot frames is a little more complex since they're also more complicated to assemble in the first place. Because of the various components involved in the system, the modular aspect of the structures is not as easily adaptable to feedback and testing. On the other hand, the multiple parts open up more options and possibilities for robotic integration and automation of specialized types of systems.

What's Your Budget?
Although the products' cost varies depending on the specifications of the project, aluminum tends to be about 30% more expensive than Flexpipe. 

For some manufacturing companies designing and working with an important number of workstations and production systems, the choice of material becomes very important. General application has a significant importance when it comes to choosing the best option. 

However, when it comes to intra-logistic applications where push-carts and flow racks are required, the cost and flexibility of pipe and joints systems trump T-slot aluminum extrusion profiles.

Is the Aesthetics a Priority?
Some professionals like the sober, straight lines, and modern looks of the T-slot aluminum profiles. Therefore, it could be considered a better choice for the aesthetics of their framing system. 

While it is possible to buy colored aluminum extrusions, it is more common to see clear aluminum finish or the typical blueish color of anodized aluminum often seen on Vention's extrusions for example, because of the considerable costs involving the powder coating process for coloration. 

On top of the traditional black and stainless colors, tubular systems like Flexpipe offer blue, yellow, green, white, red, orange, gray, and ivory colored tubes. The choices in colors mostly aim to make it easier to use color-coding systems on a production floor. Still, they can also bring a lighter atmosphere to a work environment! 

If you're looking for a sleeker, sober look, Flexpipe's stainless tubes matched with chrome-plated joints could very well match your taste. 

To better visualize what a pipe and joint structure look like, check out our photo gallery featuring structures assembled internally by the Flexpipe team.

While both products offer customized, creative and efficient solutions in various production structures, their technical particularities make their use complementary. 

Each of them is more appropriate in different contexts of the production system. On your typical assembly line, any robotics or automation-related construction system will likely be more productive and precise if built with t-slotted aluminum profiles. On the other hand, pipes and fittings systems will be the obvious choice when building flow racks, workstations, modular boards, or carts!

Temie Fessa, a project manager for Flexpipe who has been working in the field for over ten years, says many of his clients will use both systems in different contexts. He points out that when engineers or consultants have been using aluminum extrusions on their production line for a long time, they'll tend to keep the same habits when designing new structures, as a professional legacy. Because they are so used to the t-slot aluminum framings, they won't question their choices or look for other options unless they are given a specific assignment related to budget cuts, for example.

And since the price of steel tubes and fittings is much lower than aluminum extrusions, once they've discovered the tubular systems and how easy it is to use, many companies will start integrating the tubular products as much as they can in the production environment. Especially when they don't need the heavy-duty aspect or the precision provided by the strut profiles. Using steel pipes tubular systems, therefore, allows them to cut the costs without any downside.

9 tips for a lean and secure plant after the COVID-19-imposed shutdown

9 tips for a lean and secure plant after the COVID-19-imposed shutdown

The time has come for many North American manufacturers to get back to work. The situation will obviously not be the same as it was before. Ways of doing things will have to be adjusted. In the coming weeks, plants will be implementing a host of new measures to comply with new government rules, particularly in terms of health and safety. If this is the case for your company, here are nine tips, based on the principles of continuous improvement (lean manufacturing) that will help you prepare for a safe return to work.


1– Distancing your employees from each other
It's not always easy to maintain the physical distance of two metres on an assembly line. Employees often work very close to each other and have little room to manoeuvre.

By using modular aluminium panels or those manufactured by Flexpipe, these new physical constraints can be more easily met. For example, you can add acrylic panels between employees working opposite each other or a tubular panel, with an acrylic interior, for employees working side by side. Acrylic is currently hard to find; you can therefore also hang mica canvases with eyelets on your structure or workstation that are attached to a steel or tubular frame.

In the event that you cannot modify your existing workstation, install large panels, either wheeled or fixed, between employees instead. Flexpipe offers several such modular panels. Why should you choose Flexpipe? You can take them down and reuse them to make a cart, for example, when the pandemic subsides.

[caption id="attachment_18908" align="alignnone" width="814"] Here are dividing panels for working side by side[/caption]


[caption id="attachment_18938" align="alignnone" width="814"] Here are dividing panels for face to face work.[/caption]


[caption id="attachment_18887" align="alignnone" width="814"] Here is a separator panel that will help create a distance between employees.[/caption]

2– Transforming your equipment into mobile units
Are your workstations and equipment on wheels? If they are not, take advantage of the current context to install them. It is an inexpensive investment that helps you increase the mobility of your work environment so that you can more easily comply with the rules of physical distancing. There are also various braking systems, such as foot brakes or total locks, to stabilize workstations.

For example, at Flexpipe, we have relocated part of the staff in our building reserved for assembly to our warehouse. This operation, aimed at reducing contact between employees, was simple to carry out since all our workstations are equipped with four- to six-swivel wheels.

[caption id="attachment_19443" align="alignnone" width="814"] Point of use tooling (POUT) with 4 swivels caster with total lock brake[/caption]


[caption id="attachment_19449" align="alignnone" width="814"] Steel Tool cabinet that was put on caster[/caption]
3– Strengthening your 5S program
Even though 5S can increase productivity and reduce the risk of accidents, it will also be very useful when disinfecting work tools.

By using the 5S program, you will clean up your workstations to leave only the tools your workforce uses regularly. For example, at Flexpipe, an employee disinfects work tools, but also door handles and kitchen equipment three times a day. Thanks to the 5S program, our disinfection manager is much more efficient because he does not waste time disinfecting unused tools.

Already have a 5S program in place? Remind your staff about the importance of being rigorous, especially during a pandemic.

[caption id="attachment_19453" align="alignnone" width="814"] The 5S system facilitates the disinfection of workstations.[/caption]

See how the facilitators of hygiene measures apply in the medical sector.
4– Reviewing your work procedures and standards
While your plant is reopening, why not take advantage to review your work procedures and standards in order to avoid, as much as possible, the sharing of tools and equipment? In addition to improving your processes, you will provide a safer environment for your employees.

Over the next few weeks, you may have to operate with limited staff. If you have never done so, don't hesitate to reassign one of your temporarily laid-off employees to update your work procedures and standards, especially if you are eligible for government assistance for businesses.

5– Using visual cues
Visual cues are quick and easy to set up. Using different coloured tape, draw lines on the ground to clearly delineate the corridors and different work areas in your plant. For example, at Flexpipe, we have created one-way corridors to prevent people from crossing each other.

Don't hesitate to use vinyl that sticks to the floor to clearly mark the two-metre distance your staff must respect, especially in busy areas such as the cafeteria.
6– Managing the flow of materials to work cells
Consider identifying the materials, raw materials, work in process, and finished products within each work cell in your plant to limit contact between your employees and other stakeholders.

For example, use flow racks for your hardware parts. With this system, the inventory handler brings the parts to the back and the assembler takes them from the front, without any contact between the two.

Apply the same principle to your shipments. Clearly define the area in which the products are to be picked up, at a certain distance from your workspace.

7– Limiting unnecessary travel
The pandemic is one of the best reasons to encourage your employees to stay at their workstations. Indeed, unnecessary movement and travel is one of the most important wastes in value-added production because it does not add value.

At Flexpipe, we have put in place a policy to reduce the number of people walking around the plant.

Our assemblers receive their parts from a single employee who goes around the workstations with a trolley. If, for any reason (defective part, lost part, etc.), one of our assemblers needs new parts, they must stay at their station and notify their supervisor. To avoid a recurrence, the employee is asked to describe as accurately as possible the problem they just encountered while waiting for the new parts. Once the problem has been described, another employee will take over the task of finding a solution to the problem.

8– Setting up POUTs for sanitary facilities
Like most factories, you have probably purchased sanitary equipment (gloves, masks, disinfectants, etc.). To improve efficiency, set up Points of Use Tooling (POUTs), which are small workstations in which sanitary equipment is neatly stored and easily accessible, at strategic points in your plant.

Use this opportunity to post the company's policies on COVID-19 at each POUT.

9– Deliver elevated quality standards right from the beginning
Production defects are one of the most common wastes in value-added production. Especially in the context of coronavirus, positively encourage your employees to do quality work right from the beginning.

Why should you do this? Because a poorly assembled part is manipulated by many employees who will try to discover the problem and fix it. In contrast, impeccable work involves fewer people and less travel. You will limit the risks of propagation, while increasing your productivity.

Post-Covid 19 protective structures

Post-Covid 19 protective structures

In the current crisis, companies must quickly adapt their production. Certain security measures will be necessary to ensure the protection of all employees. You will find in this page a panoply of protectives structures that want to be inspiring, simple to realize, and at a low price.

Why buying Flexpipe in the pandemic situation?
The needs linked to Covid-19 being temporary, when the pandemic is over, it is very easy to dismantle the tubes and joints in order to transform them into other workstation designs and find them a second life! You'll find two types of structures below: the ready to assemble kits and inspirations for customized protective structures.
Typically, contagions are passed when individuals are within 6 feet of each other. Coughing and sneezing, which can introduce potentially contaminated droplets into the air, is one of the main ways COVID-19 is being spread. Here are 5 sneeze guards kits to protect your clients and employees.

- 48x72 Sneeze guard assembly kit  - 195$
- 36x72 Sneeze guard assembly kit - 175$
- 48x71 Sneeze wall assembly kit - 205$
- 32x32 Sneeze Screen assembly kit - 99$
- 20x30 1/2 Sneeze side assembly kit - 99$
Foot-pedal hand sanitizer dispenser - 170$

Take a look at all the kits

Watch the assembly video



How to recycle your Sneeze guard pipes and joints after the crisis (an example)

Protectives separators between production employees
Here are some customized inspirations. All of these ideas are adaptable. Our strength is tailor-made! Send us the required dimensions and we will assist you in the preparation of your project.

We can design plans quickly.
We can pre-cut and send you kits.
We can pre-assembled structures and deliver turn-key projects.
Mass production can be put into rapid action.

Line guard: download this plan

Assembly line dividers and protectors
Sneeze guard: download this plan

Sneeze guard: download this plan

Portable sneezeguards on casters with brakes.
Sneeze guard: download this plan

The next picture was sent by one of our favorite people in the Flexpipe Community! Jason Blain from Winpak who shared with us his brand new installation: sneeze guards that allow the workers to keep going in security.

And as he said, it was ''built while they were working and installed while they were on lunch. A fast but an effective build.'' Quick and simple!

Sneeze screen 32x32: download this plan

Sneeze wall: download this plan

Sneeze wall: download this plan


Employee / customer protection or for office workers
Sneeze screen 32x32: download this plan

Sneeze screen 32x32: download this plan

Cleaning and disinfection station

Handwashing station: download this plan

Hand sanitizer rack: download this plan



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Flexpipe Modular materials handling systems can help you with implementing continuous improvement principles. Your team’s creativity can result in a 10% increase in productivity per year. It has been a proven system for more than 50 years now.

Pipe and joint system for medical equipment

Pipe and joint system for medical equipment

Here are examples of how medical manufacturers use the pipe and joint system for lean manufacturing. Below are several photos of various workstations: U and L-shaped work cells and one-piece flow assembly line, among others.



Manufacturers also use pipe and joint systems to build carts for different purposes: WIP, kitting cart, sub-assembly, etc. The structural system can also be used to build custom flow racks and 2-bin systems than can be integrated into the workstations.

10 tips to reduce change resistance when introducing lean manufacturing

10 tips to reduce change resistance when introducing lean manufacturing

If you’re thinking of introducing lean manufacturing on the shop floor, you may have noticed that some production employees are hesitant to shift their habits. For example, they may say that their way of doing things has always generated good results or that the proposed modifications don’t apply to their current situation. Rest assured, your predicament is common. Most businesses in the manufacturing sector have faced this problem at one time or another. Thankfully, there are many methods to overcome resistance to change.

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

1 – Explain the reasons behind the change

Begin by stating the motive(s) for the transition to your team. Some ideas could be to be more competitive, to face growing demand, or to serve your customers better. However, avoid basing your explanations solely on profitability. If the proposed changes are purely for financial reasons, you risk not getting everyone on board.
2 – Call upon an external training facilitator

Before beginning the Lean training process, plan to have the appropriate resources. Smaller businesses often retain the services of an external instructor. In the eyes of the staff, he can lend credibility to the process thanks to his professional expertise.

If you do use an external consultant, be sure the person overseeing the Lean process within your organization (the Lean sensei) works with the trainer to provide insight into the company’s situation. The sensei can also guide the consultant’s presentation and play a part in the discussions.
3 – Provide Basic Lean training to all personnel
[caption id="attachment_17846" align="alignnone" width="814"] Flexpipe assists in training while visiting an Adidas Plant in China.[/caption]


Before engaging in Lean practices, your employees will need to receive basic training on the Lean culture to understand it and speak its unique language. At the end of the process, they should be familiar with founding principles such as 5S and various types of wastes, and knowing what added value does and doesn’t consist of.

To win over those who are most reticent, trainers can show testimonials, pictures, and videos of companies who have gone through Lean changes. Doing so is a lighter and more user-friendly means of convincing instead of text-heavy presentations that don’t always engage those in attendance.
4 – Visit other plants and speak with their employees
[caption id="attachment_17840" align="alignnone" width="814"] Flexpipe visited Lumenpulse in Longueil, Québec.[/caption]


[caption id="attachment_17843" align="alignnone" width="814"] Flexpipe visited Lumenpulse in Longueil, Québec.[/caption]

To convince employees of the benefits of the upcoming changes, suggest that they visit non-competitive plants, which recently undertook the same process as yours. If there is no one you can contact, search on LinkedIn or call organizations that do tours in Lean facilities, such as the Association for Manufacturing Excellence, the Gemba Academy, the Lean Enterprise Institute, or the Mouvement Québécois de la qualité.

While it may be challenging to get employees on-site, those who do go will become your most valued spokespeople. Why? Because they will have seen the transformation for themselves and, most importantly, talked with employees who carry out similar tasks. The latter will be able to explain how they experienced the change and the advantages of working in a Lean environment. Such discussions can reassure those who are particularly hesitant regarding the proposed adjustments.

Our team at Flexpipe recently toured the BRP snowmobile plant. After the visit, our five production team leaders exclaimed, “Wow, the production floor is open, airy, and clean. We would love to work in an environment like this.”
5 – Start with small, simple changes
[caption id="attachment_17858" align="alignnone" width="814"] Employees are showing their simple and resourceful self-constructed Shadow Board[/caption]

To display the physical benefits of the ongoing change, choose a high-visibility work cell which will serve as a model. This space will be the designated location to implement your first projects.

Avoid beginning with lengthy, costly, and complicated undertakings. Instead, make small tweaks with a big payoff, such as improving a substandard workstation. Once you’ve finished your first project, ask your employees to examine the issue that has been solved—they’ll have the proof right before their eyes.

Starting small means, you’ll be able to show the results to your team quickly and reduce the risk of failure.
6 – Ask employees to pitch ideas
[caption id="attachment_17834" align="alignnone" width="814"] Improvement Submission Board at Flexpipe.[/caption]


[caption id="attachment_18007" align="alignnone" width="814"] Improvement Submissions with a visual explanation.[/caption]

Getting employees involved is the surest way to overcome resistance to change—even if you provide Lean training. You will need to make them understand that the ownership of the transformations doesn’t solely rely on 1 or 2 people; instead, it’s company-wide ownership. That way, a Lean culture will permeate all echelons of the business.

One of the best ways to have team members participate in the transition is to gather their ideas by using a suggestion box or board. Your supervisors and those spearheading the improvement process can also help employees make recommendations on an ongoing basis.

Responding to all suggestions quickly is a robust approach to show that you open to change and innovation.
7 – Encourage employees to plan the entire project

While having ideas is undoubtedly a good thing, it’s even better to explore them. Encourage employees to lend a hand in crafting the solution by having them sketch out a problematic element in their environment and what could correct it.

If needed, the person leading the improvement process can help the staff realize and refine their ideas. Additionally, he could suggest a brainstorming session among team members to generate further options.
8 – Ask employees to help implement an idea

Once you’ve collected the various concepts and encouraged employees to play a role in devising the solution, why not ask them to continue the creation process by, for example, having them design their new lean manufacturing workstation? Besides feeling proud of his accomplishment, an employee can improve upon his workstation again in the future according to the company’s unique requirements, when need be.

One way to make ideas come to life more efficiently is to have tools and necessary materials on hand. A moonshine shop can be an exciting option to provide a creative setting.
9 – Celebrate the victories—and the defeats—resulting from the change

[caption id="attachment_17864" align="alignnone" width="814"] All the Flexpipe employees at the MPA Trade Show in Montreal.[/caption]

Your organization should celebrate both the highs and lows related to the change process. Some businesses offer a reward such as t-shirts, corporate items, or gift cards to participants. The gifts need not be expensive; they’re meant to recognize the employees’ efforts and encourage them to continue the Lean transformation endeavor.
10 – Keeping flexibility and agility in mind while recruiting
Even with the best intentions, sometimes it’s difficult to overcome resistance to change in some employees. When recruiting, make sure to emphasize flexibility and agility. Ask candidates to give you examples of changes they’ve gone through in past jobs and how they reacted to it—beware of those with a hardline stance or who seem insincere.



Flexpipe Modular industrial pipe racking system can help you with implementing continuous improvement principles. Your team’s creativity can result in a 10% increase in productivity per year. It has been a proven system for more than 50 years now.

10 things to know about moonshine shops

10 things to know about moonshine shops

Contrary to popular belief, innovation isn’t always the result of a costly and challenging process. Sometimes, a little imagination and resourcefulness are all it takes to solve recurring problems. The moonshine shop, a corporate continuous improvement concept, is part of a new trend built around that notion. Here are ten things you may not know about this increasingly popular practice.

Download your printable PDF Moonshine shop checklist
Ready to start your own Moonshine Shop? Order the parts online.


1 - Moonshine shops were inspired by Prohibition
During the Prohibition era, from 1919 to 1933, Americans got creative and started making their alcohol, often at night by the light of the moon, from whatever materials and food (fruit, vegetables, etc.) they had on hand. This illegal liquor was dubbed “moonshine.”
2 - Toyota, a continuous improvement pioneer
[caption id="attachment_16683" align="alignnone" width="814"] Credit: www.thedrive.com[/caption]

Without Toyota, the moonshine shop would probably never have come about. From 1948 to 1975, the automotive giant developed the famous Toyota Production System (TPS), a corporate philosophy that sought to find the most efficient production methods while eliminating waste.

Associated with what’s known in North America as “lean manufacturing,” TPS has inspired a variety of related concepts. Chihiro Nakao, founder of the Shingijutsu Company and a former Toyota employee, used TPS as a springboard to develop the moonshine shop.

3 - Failure is part of the process
In a moonshine shop, employees use simple and inexpensive materials to find solutions to problems they encounter in their day-to-day work. Using affordable materials means fewer budget constraints and lets employees give free rein to their creativity.

What’s more, that a fear of failure doesn’t hinder creativity. Quite the opposite—failure is a normal part of the creative process. For instance, if employees in a moonshine shop design an inefficient forklift, they don’t need to be afraid of being reprimanded by their superiors for wasting valuable company resources. They just roll up their sleeves and find a way to make it better. Among the strategies they might use are protostorming and trystorming, which make it easy to create simple physical prototypes quickly.

4 - Working together to find solutions is the most significant advantage

One of the main advantages of the moonshine shop is how fast you can implement improvements. For example, if an employee regularly performs a non-ergonomic movement, they can report the problem to the moonshine shop manager.

Instead of calling a subcontractor and waiting months for them to come and adjust the employee’s workstation, the manager (often called the “lean sensei”) can quickly come up with and implement a solution. The employee will be happy and feel like the company cares about them. This will encourage them to contribute other ideas, helping foster a culture of innovation within the company.

5 - Moonshine shops foster innovation

If you’re already using other concepts to improve and optimize corporate processes and productivity, such as protostorming, trystorming, kaizen, Karakuri, or the 5S method, you’ll be happy to know that a moonshine shop is fully compatible with and complementary to these concepts.

6 - Suitable for any company

Simple to set up, moonshine shops aren’t just for multinationals like Toyota. Small- and medium-sized companies can also reap the benefits.

At Flexpipe, for instance, employees who want to cut down on physical waste can use aboard. Using sketches, they first describe the current situation and then propose a solution. Once they are finished, the Continuous Improvement Committee, composed of four or five people, evaluates their proposal.

If the solution is approved, several employees are released from their regular duties to work in the moonshine shop. Using basic tools (saw, measuring tape, Allen wrenches, worktable, storage unit, etc.) and other materials, such as Flexpipe pipes and joints, wheels, and magnets, they make the solution proposed by their coworkers.

7 – Maintenance is not moonshine
Your company probably has a department that deals with everyday issues at the plant. These experts monitor, control, and maintain the equipment regularly to avoid breakdowns that could affect productivity. Although the moonshine shop shares this same principle, it has a different goal.

Instead of performing corrective and preventive maintenance, moonshine shop employees focus on continuously improving corporate processes. Rather than simply repairing a damaged workstation, they find ways to improve it so that it is out of service less often.

8 – Support from management is essential
Even with the best intentions in the world, a moonshine shop cannot be useful without constant and unwavering support from management. Senior management should keep in mind that employees assigned to this department will inevitably make mistakes and possibly “waste” company time and resources.

What’s more, although a moonshine shop is inexpensive to set up, it needs an operating budget and a certain degree of structure. It also requires a manager to serve as the go-between for employees and management, to ensure, among other things, that projects are running smoothly.

9 – Ideally, employees should receive value-added management training

Since the moonshine shop is a tool for implementing value-added production initiatives, there must already be a value-added management culture within the company. It’s better if your employees, especially the moonshine shop manager, have received prior training in value-added management and its related concepts, such as protostorming and trystorming. They should also be familiar with the eight wastes and the 5S method. Once trained, employees can take full advantage of a moonshine shop.

10 – A moonshine shop doesn’t have to take up a lot of space

To set up an efficient and productive moonshine shop, you need a dedicated space at the plant, equipped with basic tools and materials. For example, some companies have a moonshine shop right in the middle of their facility so that employees can see innovative work taking place in real-time.

But some small businesses feel they don’t have the space to set up this kind of initiative. If this is the case for you, you should know that there are lots of different solutions, such as folding units, that let you set up a moonshine shop in a relatively small space.

In short, there’s no excuse for not setting up a moonshine shop at your company. After all, continuous improvement is a collective responsibility!


How shadow boards help you be more competitive

How shadow boards help you be more competitive

As a manufacturer, one of your main advantages is to eliminate wastes; in other words, actions that are unnecessary and provide no added value. Shadow boards are an excellent means of implementing continuous improvement principles because their purpose is to eliminate the eight manufacturing wastes. This article will give you tips on how to sort your tools and create order so you can efficiently carry out daily tasks, regardless of the nature of your work.

According to the 5 S method
According to the 5S method, shadow boards are commonly used to manage tools that are frequently utilized during the day visually. It's a very appealing approach as you can apply it to almost any environment!
A shadow board is a visual method of stocking items employing a filled-in contour of every one of them in a colored backdrop to show where the tool should be put back after each use.

It's in the second S: SET IN ORDER or "Seiton" in Japanese, that the shadow boards come in. The exact meaning of this term is to lay out all objects and put each one in its place. Establishing a designated location for every tool or piece of equipment will help you find what you need when you need it.

Download the PDF version of our 5S method chart.

A place for everything and everything in its place
You can increase efficiency by significantly reducing wastes that provide no added value, such as time lost looking for a screwdriver, a broom, or a pair of scissors.
Good to know - For optimal visual management of your tools and parts, here are the three essential elements of a shadow board:

ID tag
Color code
Tool's shadow

Typically, a pegboard is the shadow board's foundation on which is painted the contour or shadow of the item to be hooked on the board. Shadow boards are an efficient way to create a visual impact thanks to the colored background. You can put tools or production items on them, such as dies or prototypes, for example.

The shadow board above is a kitting cart that one of our customers uses with its supplier to avoid overpackaging and waste materials on the production line.

By sending these boxes back to the supplier, the latter can simply insert all the items ordered by the customer in them again without having to restock packaging materials himself.

In addition to being environmentally friendly, this method prevents the supplier from forgetting any items and makes order prep easier. The color-coding calls attention to missing parts.
Make your shadow board.

Three simples steps to build a shadow board to meet your needs
This section of the article will provide you with tips as well as steps involved in making the type of shadow board that will be most effective and profitable for your business needs.

Step 1 - decide which tools you need
First, gather all your tools to decide which ones will go on the shadow board. To help you choose those needed to carry out your tasks, think of the setting in a hospital's operating room. A surgeon should never have more than what is required to operate on the patient, nor have to hunt around for a specific scalpel!

Tip: If you have trouble figuring out what you use in a typical workday, put in a box all the tools, and parts that you utilize as the day progresses. As such, you'll have a better idea of what's essential in your workstation.

To avoid unnecessary steps, you should always position your tools as close as possible in your workstation. Usually, these would correspond to those which you use within the hour or during the workday. In an office setting, the same principle applies: Items that are regularly utilized should be placed on the desk.
Use this chart to decide if the tool in question should go on a shadow board or not.

Step 2 - Decide on the type of panel and its location
Once you've decided on the tools that should be within reach, now it's time to choose the material. The number of items and the shadow board's location is two determining factors at this step in the process.
Here are some examples of our customer's shadow boards as a source of inspiration. Some chose to use materials they already had on hand, while others opted for laser cut-outs in foam panels.

Photo credit: Trilogiq

Photo credit: Trilogiq
If this type of shadow board interests you, we highly recommend its manufacturer - who also happens to be one of our suppliers: OSAAP AMERICA.
This Maine-based company, in the US produce boards made of various types of foam, most with laser cut-outs for added precision. Curious to see how they do it? Take a look.
Types of pegboard
Masonite pegboards are the most common on the market. They can generally be found in hardware stores or home improvement big-box stores. The panels are available at low cost and have either 1/8-inch holes or 1/4-inch holes for more robust use.
Masonite panels are not intended to hold heavy tools, such as drills. Doing so would cause the panel to warp and eventually rip. Also, with time, the holes in the panels can sustain damage from frequent hook changes.

The image below shows various types of hooks that you can use to hang your tools.

Photo credit: Triton Products
Tip: At Flexpipe, we simply use screws with bolts for added strength.

Long-lasting, metal is easy to clean and is one of the most robust materials on the market. It also gives the pegboard a stylish look. It's worth keeping in mind that metal boards are the most expensive option, and their weight makes them difficult to buy in larger sizes.
Additionally, if the air is humid, be sure to use stainless steel to avoid rust issues. Finally, remember that metal conducts electricity, so take precautionary measures to provide your employees with a safe work environment.


Plastic or polymer acrylic pegboards offer unparalleled versatility and reliability. They are much lighter than their Masonite and metal counterparts.
Their durability is unbeatable, given that they are rustproof, will not crack or warp. This type of board can withstand heavy loads.

Each type of material has its advantages and drawbacks; evaluate them all to find the best for your needs.

You can also make your shadow boards out of foam if, for example, you need to store or handle fragile parts a production line. You'll notice that most of these shadow boards are placed on a wheel-mounted cart or rack.
If you decide to build a foam shadow board, there are several grades of foam from which to choose. On the other hand, the more the foam is porous, the more difficult it will be to cut, as Ethafoam, for example. There are higher risks of it disintegrating where the knife penetrated it, consequently shortening its life span.
Type-A foam panels, such as Crosslink, are of better quality thanks to their high density. This type of foam will protect fragile parts more effectively.
You can also use materials you already have on hand in your plant to build your shadow board. Some of our customers used MDF panels, whereas others decided on steel panels. A little creativity mixed with a desire to reuse existing materials can give pretty impressive results!
Tip: Regardless of the type of material you choose for the shadow board, we suggest dividing it into sections. It will be much easier to alter only a portion of the entire board, instead of the whole thing, should you have to move tools around.
Step 3 - draw the outline of your tools
To begin, set your tools on the panel to use up space in the most optimal way. This task may be painstaking as you'll have to try a few configurations before finding the ideal one.

Be sure to align all tools properly. We recommend grouping them by families: adjustable wrenches, hammers, screwdrivers, drill bits, etc. After, draw the tools' outlines at their designated location on the panel.
To conclude, all that's left to do is to place the hooks and hang your tools. Take a picture of the final product and show your project to the rest of the team so everyone can use this work method!
Benefits of using a shadow board
In short, implementing the 5S system will have a positive effect on your operations, such as:

Reduced costs as you'll only use the tools and material that are necessary
Improved quality
A more secure work environment
Increased productivity
Increased employee satisfaction regarding their designated tasks

Whether the shadow board is in an office setting or for workstations in the production line, everyone will come out a winner. Don't wait another second before trying one!

How to do a 5S audit with your Smartphone

How to do a 5S audit with your Smartphone

You're almost there: 5S principles have been implemented in all workstations and offices throughout the plant, and all employees have all the necessary tools to work efficiently and safely. The last step? Applying the 5th S, Sustain (Shitsuke in Japanese), recurrently. We have tested five applications for you that will help you accomplish this task.

Not sure what is flexpipe?

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5S, organization method of workstations
To put yourself in the situation, let's take a look at this table to get a better idea of ​​what are the 5S and where the follow-up is compared to 4 others. Click on the image to enlarge it and print it as needed.

Download the PDF version of this table


The 5th S: sustain
The last S is often perceived as the hardest to apply, as it involves remaining steadfast in keeping up good practices. As such, it's often the most neglected.

The process is akin to someone who decides to start training to get in shape. The person chooses the best way to reach their objectives, develops a plan, and acts on it. If the initial plan is not followed and the person derails from their goals, the result (getting into shape) is compromised. As such, the "Sustain" step of the 5S calls upon self-discipline to continue good habits. Without this 5th pillar, the efficiency of the other S's is reduced.
We tested five apps for you
To make the job more comfortable for the manager who will guide each employee in evaluating their workstation, here are a few applications to help carry out the audit and the follow-up after the audit. They can be installed on a smartphone or tablet.

The mobile app is essential for a 5S audit. There are several available for iPhone or Android, and we have reviewed a few of them for you.
1- 5S Workspace Audit by Tulip
Tulip offers a variety of tools that can scan data from your business' production line. This development platform allows businesses to create specific versions of applications, including quality evaluation, 5S audits, primary cause analysis, and visual management.
(Visit their web site)

[caption id="attachment_14866" align="alignnone" width="1920"] (Source: Tulip https://tulip.co/app/5s-workspace-audit/)[/caption]

Tulip offers a variety of tools that can scan data from your business' production line. This development platform allows businesses to create specific versions of applications, including quality evaluation, 5S audits, primary cause analysis, and visual management.

Here are the Tulip app's features:

Create step-by-step instructions for your 5S audit that can be quickly followed by operators.
Incorporate pictures, videos, CAD, and other multimedia to guide workers through the audit process.
Easily define interactive forms to standardize workstation organization.
Provide automatic scores for the audit and track progress over time.
Let operators and supervisors provide feedback within the apps.
Connect your audit apps with IoT sensors, such as temperature and humidity, to ensure the right working conditions are being met.
Monitor audit compliance by worker, team, or area and visually track progress over time.
Through the "Connectors" feature, make action items visible to the entire team, and track progress against the action items.

Source: Tulip (https://tulip.co/app/5s-workspace-audit/
2- Lean 5S App
(Visit their web site)

Source Appli Lean 5S: http://www.apilean.com/appli-lean-5s

The Lean 5S app is a question-and-answer based model where the answers are selected from world-renown best practices by lean manufacturing experts. The questions cannot be personalized with the app, contrary to the other apps we reviewed. The only way to do so is by mandating Lean 5S App to do it for you. The app is available in 4 languages: English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese.

Here are the available options:

Carry out a 5S audit broken down in 5 groups of 5 questions, thus giving you 25 questions that will guide you in searching for improvement opportunities.
Follow the evolution in time of the audit's result for a given perimeter
Get tips on how to do a 5S construction site
Configure auditors and perimeters
Filter past audits by perimeter, observer or date
Create a photo gallery relevant to the perimeter to see the evolution from a visual standpoint
Plan countermeasures with pilots and deadlines
Report gaps that have been immediately corrected
Set the time period you have available for the audit and be informed of the remaining time
Get an overall score of your 5S audit and a detailed score by group
Export your reports in PDF and fives formats
Import other 5S audits done on other devices fives format
Send the audit in one click to pre-registered recipients
Read the audit in the language of choice

(Source Appli Lean 5S: http://www.apilean.com/appli-lean-5s/)
3- GoCanvas

(Visit their web site)

The GoCanvas app provides continuity of audits, thereby ensuring consistency with regards to cleanliness, organization, and efficiency in your work environment. GoCanvas audits adapt to all work sectors. This tool can help oversee the quality of your work environment on a sustained and ongoing basis and a way for work teams to adhere to established standards.

The apps for each audit type can be built very intuitively and do not require in-depth programming know-how. All you need to do is drag-and-drop the features you want in the app, and give them the desired shape (calculator, drop-down menu, checkboxes, barcode, calendar, photos, etc.). These features distinguish GoCanvas from the rest of the apps. Its customer service is also noteworthy.


Here are the app's main features:

App builder
Image capture
Signature capture
Barcode scanning
Mobile payments
Upload a database

(Source: https://www.gocanvas.com/mobile-forms-apps/2983-5S-Audit-Form)
Pricing: https://www.gocanvas.com/show_pricing_plans
4-  iAuditor - by SafetyCulture
At Flexpipe, we use iAuditor, which we consider to be among the best apps on the market. Its intuitive and adaptive interface can manage audits in other sectors, not only 5S audits. iAuditor also focuses on safety and inspections. You can prepare your audit model on the iPad and subsequently use it on your smartphone. Several audit models are suggested in the app's library.

Bye-bye paper! You can write your notes directly in the app for each item evaluated.

[caption id="attachment_14845" align="alignnone" width="814"] Gabriel's workstation, an assembler at Flexpipe, is evaluated by Remi, responsible for the continuous improvement.[/caption]


Rémi uses the app to document Gabriel's workstation and add photos to it.

Pictures of the workstation being evaluated can be taken in the app and linked to the element being evaluated. These pictures act as proof and as a reference to instill discipline. They can also be used as illustrative purposes for the team when posted on information boards.


[caption id="attachment_14848" align="alignnone" width="814"] The workstation used by Gabriel, an assembler at Flexpipe[/caption]


[caption id="attachment_14851" align="alignnone" width="814"] The workstation used by Gabriel, an assembler at Flexpipe[/caption]


[caption id="attachment_14882" align="alignnone" width="814"] At Flexpipe, audits are also carried out on the first-aid station.[/caption]

Here are iAuditor's features:

SMART FORMS: The drag and drop template builder makes it easy to create customized forms
INSPECTIONS: Complete inspections from anywhere on any mobile or tablet device
WORKFLOWS: Build workflows to manage your inspection and reporting procedures
REPORTING & ANALYTICS: Detailed inspection reports to get insights and fix problems faster
INTEGRATIONS: Connect iAuditor to your business software systems
SITESNEW: Know how your sites are performing in real-time.

Once the audit is finished, the app produces a report which can be quickly sent by email or printed for use at a later date.

Download a 5S audit report done at Flexpipe
The perception of a 5S audit
Managers have much to gain by promoting a positive image of a 5S audit. It's not a question of a verification; instead, it's more about ensuring that existing standards are respected. It must be perceived as a way to make the employee's work easier.

[caption id="attachment_14857" align="alignnone" width="814"] This workstation was cleaned after a Kaizen at Flexpipe.[/caption]

We sat down with Éric, who is a team leader and assembler at Flexpipe. After receiving training on 5S principles, audits now make perfect sense to him. He actively participated in standardizing workstations. The efficiency he gained following the standardization process translated into a significant reduction of production time. Where he once walked between 5 and 6 km per day on the production floor, that number is now between 3 and 3.5 km. Also, given that there is less handling to do, the risk of injury has decreased. He is convinced that audits are necessary so that the benefits keep paying off following the changes.

[caption id="attachment_14860" align="alignnone" width="814"] Éric, team leader and assembler at his Flexpipe workstation[/caption]

Éric concludes by saying: "In the spur of the moment, we tend to choose the easy way out. It's easy to stray from the standardization that was implemented and revert to old habits. In the end, it's a losing proposition. Audits are a way of reminding us of this."

The lack of discipline and rigor comes at a high price for manufacturing companies. Material that is only used occasionally is, ultimately, an unnecessary expense. Furthermore, work-related accidents are insurance costly. One can conclude that the benefits of upholding standards are measured in dollars, energy spent, space occupied, and are, as a result, not negligible.



Flexpipe Modular industrial pipe racking system can help you with implementing continuous improvement principles. Your team’s creativity can result in a 10% increase in productivity per year. It has been a proven system for more than 50 years now.

When should I draw with CAD or do a freehand sketch?

When should I draw with CAD or do a freehand sketch?

https://www.flexpipeinc.com/ca_en/structure/cart/Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Is training your staff to use 3D CAD software to design a structure necessary for all your projects? In our opinion, absolutely not! Depending on the complexity of the required structure, a freehand sketch may be faster than a computer drawing with CAD software. Read on to know when to design a structure using CAD software versus only doing a freehand drawing.

At Flexpipe, when we need a structure for internal use, we draw by hand instead of using CAD. When we say this to clients that are using 3D CAD software, they are quite surprised!

First, we carry out some "try-storming" with sketches, and, once tested and approved, we do reverse engineering and create a 3D design. This way, we speed up the process considerably rather than waiting for the design department to model a structure that we're not 100% quite sure will work.

In 90% of cases, you'll want to change and improve the initial concept after just one day of use. A pipe and joint system will allow you to tweak and fine-tune the structure easily. If you make the design process longer, you'll end up wiping out the quick improvement advantage of the product.

In some cases, a CAD design is not what the situation calls for.

With these wise words in mind, "Problem in the morning, solution in the afternoon," we'd rather waste a few pipes and joints on a quick structural test rather than spend a long time thinking of the ideal design in front of a computer. Our motto is "Fail fast – Learn fast – Improve fast!"

Benefits of freehand sketching
One of the significant benefits is that freehand sketching is a simple solution that requires only a few types of equipment. There's no need for software or computer or special skills that require you to be in an office setting. You can draw the sketch where the action is taking place and with the people who are most impacted by the structure.

Here are other benefits of doing your project design on paper instead of using computer software:

Lower development costs: a CAD drawing can get expensive as each picture requires an average of 5 hours of staff time.
Reduces wastes, improves efficiency and saves on costs when improvements are implemented within a shorter timeframe.
Stronger employee involvement: a key for better engagement is to act fast, especially when operating with a suggestion system!
Increased employee reach because freehand sketching is easily accessible to everyone. The employee suggesting a new structure or improvements on an existing structure is, logically, the best person to do the sketch.
It's easier to think outside the box because you are making multiple drawing iterations; ideally 7 - see our 7-Ways Idea Template to Avoid Tunnel Vision article. Getting various departments and workers participating in this brainstorming process is invaluable and can reap numerous rewards, such as different perspectives and diversified work techniques.


Benefits of making a CAD drawing after a first structure is built
Most of the time, we suggest making a 3D CAD drawing once the prototype phase is over because the final result will be accurate measurements, a bill of material, and a precise cut list.

Here are some other benefits that it's essential to document, using CAD software, a project that will be reproduced:

Avoid the occurrence of mistakes or leaving details up to an assembler's preferences. It's best to stick to a final design, so each structure is identical.
Reduces the time spent cutting pipes and assembling the structure. This is especially true when making multiple copies of an existing and tested structure.
Keeps a detailed record of your structure's components if you need to build additional units in the future. Regardless of who makes the structure, the "recipe" will be the same.
Enables you to share improvements made to structures with other departments or factories to share best practices and standardize work methods.
Helps you order the exact quantity of material needed or calculate the cost of a large project.
Makes requesting quotes from pipe and joint suppliers easier. Though we hope you'll choose Flexpipe!

Better to develop a concept with CAD software for these types of structures
For complex structures with over 20 pipes and 50 joints - for example, a flow rack 60" long with five levels and a 40" depth with multiple roller tracks. A CAD design will make it easier to draw up a bill of material, reduce the risk of errors and reduce waste, and save money.

For critical structures with a heavy loading capacity exceeding 1000 lb - for example, a WIP (work-in-progress) cart that will hold parts weighing 1200 lb and is to be moved around the production floor. Calling upon the CAD design team members is a wise move as they are specialized in calculating loading capacities and optimizing work methods.

For projects bringing about resistance to change - for example, replacing workbenches that have been used for the last 15 years by new workstations. Some projects generate more passionate debate than others. In such cases, presenting a 3D CAD drawing with multiple perspectives to the team can provide reassurance, bring about product improvement suggestions, and motivate employee engagement.

Projects that require a significant financial investment - for example, new kitting carts to reduce the use of wood pallets and forklift traffic. These types of projects generally require formal approval as it takes a certain amount of time to recoup the investment. Therefore, a 3D software design will help justify the expense of key decision-makers. They will be able to visualize the project and understand its benefits.

It's essential to evaluate the scope of the structure that you want to create; that is, don't overthink the process. Large projects should be done on CAD once the prototype phase is done. Major projects should be drawn on CAD once the prototype is done. Other than that, we suggest that you encourage people to keep it simple: do a freehand sketch, start assembling the structure, and test it quickly!

A coated pipe is less than a $1 per foot, and you will be able to reuse the casters and joints if the structure does not work or has to be improved upon—but at least you'll be getting closer to a structure offering top-notch efficiency.