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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 assist to training while visiting an Adidas Plant in Vietnam.[/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 5 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 show 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 solid 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 brainstorm 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 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 endeavour.
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 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.

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 8 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 visually manage tools that are frequently utilized during the day. 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 by means of a filled-in contour of every one of them in a colored backdrop to show where the tool should be put back after eachuse.

It's in the second S: SET IN ORDER or "Seiton" in Japanese, that the shadow boards come in. The exact meaning of this terme 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 3 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 colorcoding calls attention to missing parts.

Make your own shadow board

3 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 building 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. Normally, 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 are 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 solid 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 rusting 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 aremuch 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 greater 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 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 properly align all tools. 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

Wether 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!

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 laborious 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 10 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 own 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 creativity isn’t hindered by a fear of failure. 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 quickly create simple physical prototypes.

4 - Working together to find solutions is the biggest 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 actually 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 a board. 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 on a regular basis 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 effective 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 needs 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 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 5 applications for you that will help you accomplish this task.

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

Download the PDF version from 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 objectives, 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 5 apps for you
To make the job easier 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_14867" align="alignnone" width="814"] (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

(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.

Visit their web site

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 chantier 5S
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 in .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

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 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:

(Source: https://www.gocanvas.com/mobile-forms-apps/2983-5S-Audit-Form)
Pricing: https://www.gocanvas.com/show_pricing_plans

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

Visit their web site

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 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.



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.





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_14858" 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_14861" 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 come 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.

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

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

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 simply doing a freehand sketch.

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 1 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 just 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 major 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 a computer software:

Lower development costs: a CAD drawing can get expensive as each drawing requires an average of 5 hours of staff time.
Reduces wastes, improves efficiency and save 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 important 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 builds 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 5 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 to 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.

Why buy 8-foot pipes instead of 4-meter pipes?

Why buy 8-foot pipes instead of 4-meter pipes?

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
Are you wondering about which pipe length you should buy to reduce costs? Read on for details about transportation and scrap costs in the comparative study we did on 8 different projects built with 4-meter and 8-foot pipes.

True or false #1: buying 8-foot pipes reduces freight costs?
True or false #2: 4-meter pipes generate less scrap pieces?

In 2017, we began offering 4-meter pipes to accommodate some of our customers’ needs. Recently, we decided to look into the benefits of these 4-meter pipes and did some investigating of our own. Keep reading to learn the reasons why - following our tests - we recommend purchasing 8-foot pipes instead of 4-meter pipes.

We know that the industry norm in pipe and joint systems are most likely 4 m pipes because Japan's Yazaki introduced the product in 4-meter lengths many decades ago. However, when it comes to standard building materials such as plywood or timber, 8-foot lengths are most often used. This is mainly due to housing construction standards, and for reasons regarding health, safety, and freight costs.

The table below compares the cost of purchasing 8-foot versus 4-meter pipes for use in 8 different pipe and joint projects. Since most of our customers obtain 4-meter tubes from our competitors, we’ve since introduced Creform 4-meter pipe pricing. To round out the table, we also calculated the monetary value of scrap pieces shorter than 12 inches, since they are generally not reusable.

*Prices based on 2018 regular catalogs from Flexpipe and Creform.

According to the numbers in the table, it’s safe to say that the average piping cost per project is just about the same. While the value of the scraps under 12 inches long is a little less expensive in the "8 feet" column, we can affirm that you’ll get better reusable scrap pieces with 4-meter pipes.

Regarding work-related illness and injury, 4-meter pipes need to be handled with greater care than 8-foot pipes. There is an increased risk of self-injury or harm to others, regardless of whether you are handling the pipes manually or using a forklift. For these reasons, and to adhere to ergonomic guidelines, we decided to keep 8-foot pipes as our main product offering.
Drawbacks of 4-meter pipes:

Require extra-long forks to handle 4-meter pallets. This can be a waste of time for the forklift driver.
Require a more considerable amount of floor space to get the pipes out of the truck and to move non-standard pallets throughout the plant.
Require a bigger footprint, or specialized racking to store the pipes vertically or horizontally.
Require a larger cutting table, thus take up more space.
Require a wood crate for handling and shipping, which is an additional cost.
May require time or money to get rid of the wood crate.
Cannot be shipped by UPS or FedEx, as the authorized maximum length is 10 feet.
Increase freight cost by 42% (see below).


As a side note to the freight costs mentioned above, 8-foot pipes can be shipped with regular carriers, while the 4-meter ones must be sent with LTL carriers.

In the chart below, you will find prices listed on freightcenter.com, which were calculated on October 25, 2018, with an $80 overlength fee. Since summer 2018, most LTL carriers charge an overlength fee on material exceeding 8 feet. We prioritize carriers offering delivery over 2 business days.

8-foot shipment values ; 24x96x30 500 lb
4-meter shipment values ; 24x157x25 500 lb
Drawbacks of 8-foot pipes:

Generate more reusable lengths to manage (exceeding 12 inches long).
Higher in cost, if you are a one-time user and do not intend on reusing the scraps
Require the use of AP-CNNCT or AP-CNNCT2 pipe connectors to build structuresd over 8 feet long - which is not always recommended!


So, to answer the first true-or-false question which was “Buying 8-foot pipes reduces freight costs?” The answer is TRUE: you will save on freight costs with 8-foot pipes and avoid the hassle of handling 4-meter units in the plant.

For the second question, “4-meter pipes generate less scrap?”, the answer is also TRUE: 4-meter pipes reduce leftovers mostly for long structures. However, if you regularly build structures, you will be able to re-use leftovers quickly since most of them exceed 12 inches.

If you frequently work on continuous improvement projects for the plant, you are better off with 8-foot pipes.

If you use modular systems only occasionally for specific quantity projects, e.g., a contractor who builds new carts or flow rack for a client, you are better off with Flexpipe 4-meter pipes. If you use pipe and joint systems for small or in-house projects, opt for 8-foot pipes as they can quickly be shipped via courier.

We hope this comparison test was helpful to you. If you have any questions, please contact your project manager, he will be happy to provide any assistance you might need.

Why should I use Sketchup instead of my usual design software?

Why should I use Sketchup instead of my usual design software?

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
After a certain time, we sometimes get set in our ways of doing things. To a certain extent, familiarity can breed a certain level of efficiency. However, if you’re in a continuous improvement environment, have you considered new ways to speed up the freehand drawing process?

Whether you're using AutoCAD, Inventor, Catia, SolidWorks or any other 3D computer design software, read on to learn how our team at Flexpipe cut design time in half.

Up until 2011, the Flexpipe design team used Solidedge software. We were drawing sketches rather quickly; maybe not the fastest out there, but we thought we were pretty good nonetheless! All our joints had already been drawn previously, and we were producing complete computer designs in about 4 hours. Some took just an hour, such as for boards, while others took an entire day, an elaborate kitting cart for instance.

The problem was that sometimes we would spend 5 to 8 hours drawing a single sketch, and, in some cases, the project would not get the go-ahead. To reduce this time waste, we developed an extension for Sketchup which eventually allowed us to cut our drawing time by half! This was a huge gain for our designers who were sketching all day long! In 2016, we decided to offer this time-saving feature to our customers. As of 2019, the extension is available to all pipe and joint users, even if they are not Flexpipe customers.

Benefits of the Flexpipe Creator Sketchup Extension
The developed extension has several benefits that will reduce your drawing time in half for you too!

1 - Converts lines into pipes with the desired Flexpipe color in 1 click, which makes the design simpler and faster to create. You can quickly change your structure with 1 click to go back to the sketch with lines.

2- Finds and places the right metal joints – and suggests alternatives – in one click for all the pipe intersections. That way you don’t have to know all the joint options and speeds up design time considerably. The Flexpipe Creator extension can spots metal joints that are in conflict with others to avoid any incorrect design features. It also accelerates the assembly process.

3- Suggests other accessories and puts them in the most appropriate locations. He also offers visibility options to hide pipe, joints, and accessories allowing you to modify a drawing faster.

Once your structure design is complete, you will be able to generate a bill of material in an Excel format including a cutting list for pipes, roller tracks, and decking. This will speed up the purchase request and avoid any retyping waste.

You'll also get an optimized cutting list and a visual diagram to reduce pipe, roller track and decking wastes. The Flexpipe Creator extension has links to Flexpipe’s online store so you can evaluate pricing, create a shopping list that you can share or place the order right away!

Want to see the Flexpipe Creator extension in action?
Watch our quick demo

Key benefits of the Sketchup program include:

Low cost for the commercial license;
Minimal hardware requirements;
Access to the Sketchup 3D Warehouse - a comprehensive list of extensions and API;
Access to the Sketchup Library: other CAD models created by other users;
Easy to use;
Flexpipe Creator Extension available!

The best way to design an optimal structure is to focus on the concept and the structure’s purpose. Try to spend more time with people on the floor to ask them about their needs and what type of structure they have in mind. They usually have already thought about a concept, but sometimes merely need to explain it in their own words.

As you can well guess, we’re all about efficiency. Therefore, with LEAN principles mind, we strive to reduce time wastes in the various sketching steps, i.e., putting in measurements, changing pipe colors, finding the right connector, putting together the cut list. So you can craft your design in the most efficient way possible.

If you need more information, on Flexpipe’s Creator extension, please contact your project manager, he will be happy to provide any information you might need.

The 10 steps for a successful project

The 10 steps for a successful project

When it comes to setting up the process to assemble pipe and joint projects, there are certain principles you’ll want to keep in mind. We’ve drawn up the following list of 10 steps to follow so the construction of your structure goes as smoothly as possible. Read on for the details!

Before setting up a process to assemble a lean pipe structure, we suggest your pipe builders receive basic training on how to use the Flexpipe product. Also, make sure to have a suitable environment equipped with sufficient space and tables, a minimum of raw material, and all necessary tools so your team can carry out the work easily.

Our customers build lean pipe structures using different processes which differ depending on the company size, history with Flexpipe products, etc. In some companies, the designated builders change every week which means that their processes will be different from companies who always use the same builders.

1 -  Fill in the 7-ways idea sheet
The first step consists of coming up with 7 different ways to solve the problem at hand. To get you started, read the article Our 7-Ways Idea Template to Avoid Tunnel Vision. Then, download the Excel the 7-Ways Idea template.

Remember to use your wits, instead of reaching for your wallet – and try to think outside the box! Often, a bit of innovative thinking can go a long way and doesn’t require additional investments.


2 -  Select and hand sketch the chosen idea
Usually, at this point, you’ll have a pretty good idea in which direction to head in but, if not, don’t waste any more time on brainstorming and start “trystorming”. No more excuses: get things started and test the prototype! After, you can draw another sketch in greater detail which includes what material you will need.

Download your printable project sheets here.

For more information on hand-sketching:

3 -  Draw up a list of what material you need and how much
Allow us for a moment to use a cooking analogy… As you know, pretty much every meal has a recipe. Try to cook a meal you’ve never prepared before without the recipe, and you’ll most likely fail. The same goes for your project, without a material list, odds are you’re not going to get anywhere. Have a proper bill of material on an Excel sheet or at least on a list that you’ve jotted down by hand.

4 -  Order the required material
Unless you keep an inventory of parts at all times (a practice you should avoid, in keeping with the Lean philosophy), you will more than likely need to order some components — but try to use what you have on hand as any good moonshiner would!


5 - Make sure all material is available before starting to build
Have you ever noticed the one thing that all cooking shows have in common? The reason most chefs can complete a recipe within 30 minutes is not just thanks to the magic of video editing. Instead, the answer lies in the fact that they have all the recipe’s ingredients in front of them ready to be used. So coming back to assembly project, when you have all the materials ready, you will drastically speed up the assembly process.


6 -  Mark the location of the project on the ground with tape
This is where your 5S floor marking skills will come in handy. If you’re not familiar with floor marking principles, learn more on the 60 seconds visual workflow blog article. There are also plenty of great resources in online forums such as lean.org.

7 -  Build a prototype and see if it works
This principle is called one-piece flow, and it is responsible for a drastic change in many manufacturing industries. According to this rule, building one product at a time from start to finish is more efficient than doing just one operation to many units before carrying out the next sept. This will ultimately save you from making the same error on every unit.

8 -  Record the actual quantity of material used to construct the project
Document everything. This is a no-brainer, right? Well, many people - including us - often forget or underestimate the importance of documenting. This will become critical when the time comes to scale the project. Document how many components you use and feel free to record any individual building processes with which you might have had a problem.

9 -  Improve upon the first concept
This wouldn’t be a lean method without including notions of continuous improvement. This step is all about optimizing your project before scaling it. Unlike step 7, the purpose of this step is to test the prototype and refine its design to make it more efficient in all aspects. Once you’ve reworked your prototype, build a second structure.

10 -  Calculate the benefits of the project once it's complete
There are many ways to calculate your ROI (“return on investment”). These will vary depending on the nature of the project and the KPIs (“key performance indicators”) you choose.

Most of our customers use the Moonshine Shop to improve takt time or to decrease injury risks and floor space. These metrics are usually easy to calculate. However, they are just examples of the standard indicators we see in our industry. This method is versatile, and the results can be surprising.

To conclude, if you apply these steps correctly, you should quickly see the benefits generated from this process every time. No one likes to waste time and, as we all know, time is money. We want to make sure that your time – and budget – are well spent!

Along those lines, we encourage you to consider using a Flexpipe crib, which is a storage structure for Flexpipe parts. You’ll be surprised by the extent of its potential and see just how useful it is in your work environment.

Top 4 tools for cutting

Top 4 tools for cutting

The plastic-covered metal tubes used for Flexpipe structures are relatively easy to cut. Throughout the years, we’ve tested several different tools and gotten feedback from our customers and our team about the ones they most commonly used to cut the tubes.

We highly recommend drawing up a list of all the cuts that need to be made so you don’t waste a considerable amount of time and materials. With that in mind, here’s a list of 4 cutting tools we recommend, along with their respective pros and cons. You’ll also find a list of tools you should refrain from to keep your workplace safe.

Estimated reading time: 3 min 34 sec.



4 - The Sawzall

The Sawzall is a portable cutting tool as it’s cordless. This feature makes the device easier to use on existing structures.

Tip: If the piece needing to be cut is not already assembled, we highly recommend using clamps. Without proper support, you can end up making a cut in the wrong place.

You need to know that the Sawzall can be heavy, it can also be challenging to keep stable. Make sure your arms have adequate support to maneuver the device securely. Safety can be an issue due to the sparks flying from the blades. Hence safety glasses are a must. For these reasons, the Sawzall is a tool to be used if you have no other on hand.


3 - The Tube Cutter

Tube-cutters are available in varying grades of quality and whose execution speed can vary. This tool makes clean, straight cuts, and is easy to use. Given that the tube cutter is a manual hand tool, it’s less dangerous, and the risk of injury is reduced. This tool is the safest among those listed in this article.

Using this tool requires a fair bit of vigour on the employee’s part. For this reason, it’s best to have established beforehand all the cuts needed before starting the project. Not only will this save you quite a bit of time, you’ll cut only that which is necessary.

Tip: To avoid applying undue force to the tool, be sure to use a consistent circular movement. To do this, do not overtighten the screw knob when starting out. As such, there’ll be sufficient flexibility when cutting your tubes.

While the tube-cutter can be handy at times, it’s not one of the quickest. We recommend using this tool for small projects.


2 - The Portable Bandsaw

The portable bandsaw is an excellent tool to use on a regular basis. We suggest the smaller models as they are lighter. This ergonomic tool is suitable for existing structures. Another plus is that the bandsaw has a moderate noise level.

Contrary to the metal cutting bandsaw, the portable model can only cut one tube at a time. Also, lack of adequate support can result in crooked cuts.


1 - The Metal Cutting Bandsaw

The metal cutting bandsaw is ideal for projects of all sizes. It can cut up to six tubes simultaneously—which makes it the most efficient tool of this list. If you are cutting tubes daily, this tool is the best investment you can make.

The standard model is more than enough, and no blade lubricant is required when cutting Flexpipe tubes. This bandsaw is very quiet and is the least dangerous electric tool.

Tip: As these two tools complement each other very well, we recommend having both on hand for optimal efficiency.

You’ll need to establish a location for a stationary bandsaw. As such, consider using an area that is safe and easily accessible. This bandsaw, as opposed to the portable model, cannot do cuts on structures that have already been built.


Cutting tools to avoid

Here's a list of tools you should stay away from as there is a high risk of worker injuries when using them. Besides, these tools will not provide peak performance. Remember that regardless which one you use, wearing safety is essential.

Table Saw;
Miter Saw;
Handle Lopper;
Hand Saw
Cut-Off Saw


You are now more familiar with how Flexpipe tubes are easy to cut with these 4 tools. Depending on how many cuts you'll need to do to complete your project, you have all the necessary information to choose the tool best suited to cutting your Flexpipe tubes. Remember that fully grasping the scope of your project as well as establishing that needs to be cut before beginning the work will prevent you from wasting precious time and material.

Top 5 tools for assembling

Top 5 tools for assembling

Assembling a Flexpipe structure can be an easy process and can be made even quicker if you use the appropriate tools. All Flexpipe joint sets are assembled with the same nuts and bolts. As such, you’ll just need a 5-mm hex head tool to carry out your project.

Depending on the scope of the project, it’s essential to know which tool can save you the most time and money. Here’s a list of the 5 tools we recommend, with their respective pros and cons.

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes



5 - The 5 MM Hex Key (Allen Key)

The hex key, or Allen key, is found in most toolboxes. This inexpensive tool, which is available in many stores, is perfectly adapted to carry out adjustments on existing structures or to build small projects. The hex key’s modest size enables you to work in those hard-to-reach places that other tools are unable to access.

TIP: Did you know that you can cut a long hex key into several pieces? These pieces can subsequently be used as a hex head on your drill. However, this tip does not work for impact drivers.

We don’t recommend using a hex key for assembling larger projects as this may be painful for your hands and wrists. While the hex key is convenient, it’s not intended to be a time-saver.


4 - The Hex Socket (Dynamometric) Wrench

A hex socket wrench is a useful, light tool. One can choose a 5mm (1/4’’) unit with a preset cutting range of 2-100 inches per pound (9.8 Nm). This cutting range is the ideal strength to assemble Flexpipe structures. As such, your bolts will always be perfectly tightened.

TIP:You may find it challenging to locate this preset tool, so we’ve done the searching for you! The tool is available for purchase on seekonk.com (US-based, delivery to Canada is possible).

While this tool is faster than the hex key and the T-handle, you’ll find others listed in this article which are quicker to use. You should keep in mind that a preset torque wrench is not a common tool and it can be difficult to find; it can be expensive, too.

If the one you are using is not preset, you’ll need to pay close attention to the torque setting. If it’s too tight, the bolt heads may become stripped, and you won’t be able to use the bolts again in future projects.


3 - The Cordless Drill

A cordless drill is a highly useful tool for projects that only require short assembly time. Given that most people have already used a drill, little employee training is necessary. Furthermore, you probably have one on hand in your facility!

It’s essential to adjust a drill before using it. You must select the “V1” speed setting: that is, the drill speed will be moderate, but with a high level of power. Failure to adequately set the speed level can lead to a wrist injury.

Also, be ready to compose with the tool’s weight when assembling a large-scale project. Speed is critical here; make sure you have the right torque setting, so you don’t strip the bolt heads and render them unusable for future projects.


2 - The T-Handle Hex Key

As a useful complement to the impact driver, the T-handle hex key is handy to tighten bolts which are hard to reach. Its rubber grip makes it more ergonomic and comfortable than the hex key, and it is also very affordable.

As is the case for the hex key, this tool is not suitable for large-scale projects. If you do choose to use it nonetheless it may be painful for your hands and wrists. While it won’t provide the quickest execution time, the T-Handle hex key can prove to be useful in certain situations.


1 - The Impact Driver (Impact Gun)

The impact driver, also known as an impact gun, is the tool we recommend most. Why? Because it’s powerful, fast and quite affordable. It’s best to set it at medium power for top performance.

Be sure to have the proper torque setting to avoid stripping the bolt heads, or else they will be useless for other projects. We also recommend purchasing a replacement battery, so your assembly process is not interrupted by a dead battery.


Tip about Flexpipe nuts and bolts:
All Flexpipe joint sets are assembled with M6-N nuts and M6-25B bolts. The term M6 refers to the outer metric diameter of the head which is 6 mm.


Now that you know all the characteristics of these assembling tools, you should be able to determine which is the right tool to assemble your Flexpipe structures. Remember that it’s essential to evaluate the scope of your project correctly, so you purchase the tool that best suits your needs.