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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.

Everything you need to know about our modular system starter kits

Everything you need to know about our modular system starter kits

First time using modular systems? Well then, a kit is the best way to ease your team into using this type of equipment because all the parts and examples of plans are already included. Read on for more detailed information about this kit and all the parts included.

Who should use starter kits?
You’ve done your due diligence and have finally gotten approval to buy Flexpipe equipment. Your team and management are on board, but now you’re racking your brain trying to figure out which parts you need to order and which structures the team must build. Flexpipe’s starter kits are going to make your job a whole lot easier. We know time is money; let us help you save on both.

What’s included
Based on our experience and that of our customers, we’ve created each starter kit in such a way that it contains the parts, and their corresponding unit count, most commonly used to build various types of structures. We ensure that there is a proper ratio of units (i. e.: screws, connectors, and tubes) so you’re not stuck with unnecessary leftover parts. Depending on the structure you want to build, we supply you with its essential components (such as conveyors for flow racks, for instance). We also include up to 7 structural plans if you want to get a head start on assembling your structures.

For new customers, one of our project managers can assist you in designing the structures to meet your specific needs. From there, one of our draftspeople can create two 3D plans for you. Once the plans are approved, the parts list is updated to make sure all the units to build the customized structures are part of the kit. Additionally, all tubes come with information relating to their cut length. This will make assembling the first few structures much easier.

A starter kit is a terrific way to learn the ropes on how to use a modular system because no pre-assembled tube-and-joint structures are available for purchase. Skip having to design plans; you can start building the structures right away! Gone are the headaches of making certain that you and your team have all the required parts. Our goal is to ensure that learning to use our system is as easy as possible.

The possibilities of a starter kit
If you want to improve your production floor’s operations, personalizing the equipment your employees use to fits their needs is a win-win for efficiency, budgetary and ergonomic concerns. With a modular system, the structures can be easily and quickly improved upon, and as often as necessary. Whether it be adjusting their height, size, or adding a turntable, shelves, drawers or shadow boards, adaptability is key here, and that’s exactly what Flexpipe pipe and joint systems deliver.

With a starter kit, you’ll be able to build 4 or 5 sizeable structures. We recommend you start by building a structure that is not too complex. Remember, even a simple project can have a considerable impact on operations!

Once you’ve placed your order, our customer service team will contact you to confirm which color you would like the tubes to be. What’s more, should you want to alter the list of parts, we’ll be happy to make the necessary changes.

Need help building your first structure? Your team can take advantage of training sessions at Flexpipe’s headquarters—free of charge! If you prefer, our assembly experts can carry out the training to your facilities. To get the basics down pat while in training, a starter kit is essential.

Proper Floor Marking: The Smart (And Cheap) Way To Improve Efficiency

Proper Floor Marking: The Smart (And Cheap) Way To Improve Efficiency


This article and the guide that goes with it, are the result of our collaboration with Creative Safety Supply. We hope you enjoy and learn something along the way. Skip this article and get your Floor Marking Guide right away!

Though they are perhaps the single most cost-effective means of boosting a facility’s safety and efficiency, high-visibility floor markings rarely get the respect they deserve, and companies that do the bare minimum necessary to meet OSHA requirements are doing themselves a grave disservice. Proper, high-visibility floor markings allow employees to find tools and materials as needed while preventing accidents caused by people being in the wrong place at the wrong time. That translates to less waste, improved morale, and increased profits.

Our guide offers a brief primer on the benefits of smart, creative floor marking, examines some common applications, and even offers hints on how to choose the floor marking method that’s right for your facility. If you own a warehouse that sees very little traffic, simple floor paint may be the right answer for you. If, however, your facility sees a lot of forklift traffic, we’d recommend you look into a more durable, long-lasting solution, such as SafetyTac® industrial floor tape made from PVC material. Not only will this heavy tape last for years, but you won’t have to worry about it getting scuffed and turning into a tripping hazard.

The key to an effective visual workplace is visuals that are intuitive and readily available. Creative floor marking is the easiest way to accomplish this often-overlooked task, and our guide can set you on the right path toward building a safe, efficient workplace.


About Creative Safety Supply

Creative Safety Supply is a manufacturer and supplier of industrial safety and lean manufacturing products for the workplace. The company has worked with businesses of all sizes and in many industries to help create spaces that are safer, easier to navigate, and operate more efficiently. Creative Safety Supply’s LabelTac® industrial label printers and SafetyTac® floor marking tapes allow organizations to increase visual communication in their facilities without too much hassle or need for upkeep. Visit CreativeSafetySupply.com to learn more about floor marking.

The 9-Step Checklist for a Kaizen Moonshine Shop

The 9-Step Checklist for a Kaizen Moonshine Shop

If you are only here for the Kaizen Moonshine checklist, just scroll down to the first step. However, if you don’t know what a Moonshine shop is, be sure to check below to learn what it is and where this name originated.

What is a Kaizen Moonshine?
No, we are not referring to an illegal beverage, even if there is a link between the concepts. More on that later.

Kaizen Moonshine is a process that uses materials at hand to create valuable solutions to problems. This simple technique looks at existing resources and new challenges from a different perspective and tries to do more with what you already have. Don’t worry, the checklist will cover the exact steps to achieve those results.  

The origin of the Kaizen Moonshine Shop
We owe the Moonshine concept to a Japanese engineer named Chihiro Nakao, founder of the Shingijutsu Consulting Company. This man is often recognized as one of the most outstanding production engineers of his time. He named this method after - yes you guessed it - the illegal alcohol beverage produced during the US prohibition.

We will not go into minute detail about the US prohibition, because the important point here is the parallels drawn by Mr. Nakao between his process and the way the moonshiners were using their resources to build their production systems.

It’s been said that during the prohibition people were illegally producing alcohol under the light of the moon, and this is why they called it Moonshine. Whether it is true or not, what was interesting for our Japanese engineer was that those individuals built a working system with re-used parts of metal and other pieces of material. That’s the idea behind the lean concept of Moonshine.

The 9-Step Checklist to a Successful Moonshine Shop
Before we get into the nine steps, we want to warn you that this method isn’t for everyone. This process works best if your team is composed of individuals with creative talents and/or lean manufacturing experience. It is not impossible to complete the 9 steps without those people on your team, but those skills will highly increase the potential success of this process.

So, here are our 9 steps to an amazing Kaizen Moonshine Shop:

We usually use this process after the idea to build a new Flexpipe structure has been approved.

1 - Calculate the optimal dimensions for the selected idea chosen from The 7-Ways Idea Template
  If you have never heard of this Flexpipe tool before, be sure to read Our 7-Ways Idea Template to Avoid Tunnel Vision. If you are familiar with our template but have misplaced it, you can download our 7 ideas sheet document.

2 - Note quantity and details of material required to construct project
  Every meal has a recipe. Try to cook a meal you’ve never made before without the recipe, and you’ll most likely fail. It is the same for the Moonshine Shop. Without the materials list, you won’t go anywhere.

3 -  Order any particular material if needed
  Unless you keep a complete inventory of parts at all times, which is not a very lean approach, you will more than likely need to order some components to complete the shopping list.

4 - Make sure all material is available before starting to build
  Did you ever notice the one single thing that all cooking shows have in common? The reason most chefs can complete a recipe within a 30-minute format is not just the power of video editing. The answer is simple, they have all the ingredients on the recipe list ready to be used in front of them. This step will drastically accelerate the Moonshine process.

5 - Mark the location on the floor with tape where the project is going to be stored
  This is where your skills with 5S floor marking will come in handy. If you are not familiar with floor marking principles, there is an article coming soon. In the meantime, there is plenty of great resources about the topic on forums like Lean.org.

6 - Build just one unit and try it to 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 doing the next operation. This will ultimately save you from making the same error on every unit.

7 - Record the actual quantity of material used to construct 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, you might have had a problem with.

8 - Improve the first idea and request approval from the kaizen area to build a second
  This wouldn’t be a lean method without some notion of continuous improvement. This step is all about optimizing your project before scaling it. Unlike step 6, the purpose of this step is not just to see if your project is working. This is the time where you test performance and try to refine the design to make it more productive in every aspect.

9 - Calculate the benefits of a project once complete
  There are many ways to calculate your ROI.  These will vary depending on the nature of the project and the KPIs 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 results can be surprising. If you apply these steps correctly, you should quickly see benefits generated from this process every time.

The 6 characteristics of the perfect Flexpipe assembler

The 6 characteristics of the perfect Flexpipe assembler

If you haven’t read our post on the 8 People Who Can Build Your Material Handling Structures, you should check that out first. Now, if you have identified the employees or external workers that are going to assemble Flexpipe in your facility, here is a list to help you choose the right individual(s).

Whether it's an engineer, a maintenance worker, or any other type of worker mentioned in our other post, the most important factor for success will be the personality of the individual or the team assembling your Flexpipe structures. Here are 6 characteristics of the best assemblers.
Mainly, Flexpipe requires creativity. This characteristic is most useful when participating in kaizen events but also when the time comes to create custom structures. Remember that tube-and-joint systems are used to build adapted work structures. Therefore, if a person’s structures always look like something you could have purchase from the hardware store, you should question whether this person is truly fit to be a Flexpipe assembler.
The ideal assembler will be able to think outside the box and be willing to try to defy gravity. Flexpipe structures should be simple, cost-effective and easily positioned for testing.  The best Flexpipe designs are among the most simplistic. At times, this system has sometimes simplified complex problems because of its simplicity and flexibility.
Sure, Flexpipe is easily assembled, but at some point, you might want to create more sophisticated features, such as drawers or doors that require more complex manipulation.  The use of a skill saw or bandsaw might come into play. In general, practically anyone can assemble Flexpipe - Although we still recommend using someone with the best skills for the job.
You may need more than the tube and joint components to complete a project. Perhaps you need to add a dry erase board, foam or special adjustable fasteners. A resourceful assembler will find what he or she needs at a local supplier or get it from maintenance.
Ergonomic mindset
You don’t need to have a lean sigma six black belt to have a lean mindset. Knowing basic concepts of lean manufacturing will help you optimize lean pipe structures. An assembler should understand why he or she uses 5S techniques, what a strike zone is, and why it is important to make smaller lots and kitting carts.
This last one is more about the job itself than about the person. Using tubes and joints is an on-going process, as is continuous improvement. There is a significant learning curve for design and assembly. The ideal Flexpipe assembler should be a thrilled to realize their latest designs with the modular system and should be available to expand and improve on original structures.  It should not be a temporary job that ends when the internship is done or when the assembler is recalled to the production line.

Our 7-Ways Idea Template to Avoid Tunnel Vision

Our 7-Ways Idea Template to Avoid Tunnel Vision

What’s the difference between a good idea and a great idea? Good ideas come along all the time and help people solve minor problems. Great ideas appear a little less frequently and require a bit more work to execute. Our Seven-Ways Idea sheet can take you from a good idea to a great idea.

Your first idea probably isn’t your best one. However, many of us suffer from “design fixation”, where we fall in love with our first idea, simply because it was first. This is a problem, because it stops you from looking for a better one. At Flexpipe, we know that time is the most precious resource people have, and finding great ideas can take several days, even months.

We can avoid this problem by pushing ourselves to come up with multiple solutions. Hopefully, the 7-Ways Idea Template can help you speed up that process.

Who is using this Template?
At Flexpipe, we definitely use this sheet for our projects. However, we are not the inventors of this concept. Many of the companies we work with were already using this as standard practice.

Let's take the case of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Canada Aerospace (MHICA). They use the 7-Ways Idea sheet at the beginning of every Kaizen Moonshine Shop they do. The company knows that this technique reduces the risk of future problems within the design.

Please check our 9-Step Kaizen Moonshine Shop Checklist

How the template works?
The suggestion needs to be illustrated with at least seven solutions, and seven is a minimum, the more ideas you generate, the better solutions you can devise. Forcing employees to come with several ideas will:

   Push people to take more time and look at things from different angles.
   Force them to ask colleagues, develop teamwork, combine ideas, and bring a new perspective to the problem.
   Push ideas such as idea 5,6, and 7 to go beyond common sense and think outside the box.

Still not convinced?
You might think it is a luxury to come with multiple ideas and that it is going to take too much of your time and of the time of your team. However, our experience with this process has proved again and again that investing a little more time at the beginning of a project will save you time and money in the long run by:

   Revealing unknown obstacles and overcoming them before they occur.
   Limiting the number of corrections needed after the project is done.
   Making sure your allotted time is realistic and that you have the resources necessary to accomplish your goals before even starting the project.

Final thought on the 7-Ways-Idea process
We highly recommend that you download the template and that you implement it for your next project. Don't forget that you should always limit the time allotted to this process to allow the project to see the light of day.

What this process means for pipe and joint system users?
If you are using a material handling system like Flexpipe, you know that possibilities are endless. This sheet will help you explore those ideas and build great structures that will lead to more productivity and less waste of your time and money.

Download the 7-Ways Idea Template and make it happen!

8 most likely people for an in-house assembly

8 most likely people for an in-house assembly

One of our most asked questions is, “Who should build my structures?” The quick answer is that it depends on many factors. There are many types of people who can assemble Flexpipe structures. However, it will vary based on your resources, budget, time, available space, location and how big your project is.

Here's a top 8  of the most likely people to build your structures in-house and the best scenarios for you to utilize their specific skill sets optimally.


8 - The manufacturing contractor

This might be an individual or a small business you already have as a supplier. They already know your business and your facility because they’ve worked for you in the past or do so now.

These people are used to doing manual labor. It may be a supplier who has integrated new production lines for you in the past. This is common in big manufacturing businesses like the Automotive industry. These individuals usually have knowledge of flowrack principles and one-piece flow.

However, even if they have vast experience in manual labor, they are not necessarily experts in materials handling systems such as Flexpipe, and they may only see this as a one-time contract. If this is the case, your contractor may have to spend time learning the system, and you will lose the know-how they acquired during the project once it is done.


7 - The mechanical or industrial engineering intern

Hiring an engineering intern is an excellent way to bring lean manufacturing knowledge into your business for a defined period. This is a good option if you have a project with a beginning and an end. The cost will be more affordable than doing business with a lean manufacturing consulting firm.

Some of these people have the manual skills necessary, and if you challenge them they can implement practices to save you time and money. Most of them will have design or at least technical drawing skills, which are an important part of building Flexpipe structures. If you are doing it right, they will merge with your business and bring a fresh and different perspective.

The risk of this option is the internship ending before your project is completed. Also, if this person is the only one with lean manufacturing experience in your company, you will lose this knowledge until you hire someone else with the same know-how. This isn’t optimal, since materials handling systems like Flexpipe are constantly evolving and demand continuous improvements to be optimal.

Before you go looking for an intern, make sure your business culture is adequate for this kind of solution. Interns are usually young people with big ideas and not necessarily mature professionals. They require a little more supervision, so you need to be able to provide him time and a good integration. Depending on the perception of your current experienced employees, this new team member may also create resistance to changes in your organization.


6 -The lean manufacturing engineer

This is the experienced engineer with knowledge not only about lean manufacturing but also with experience in this field. These people may already have worked with a system similar to Flexpipe, and if they haven’t, they will usually learn the system quickly. Like the intern, these individuals usually have a manual, design, and technical drawing skills.

Keeping an engineer like this in your organization will improve your productivity dramatically in the long run. They will keep improving the system as your business evolves so that you can benefit from the optimal potential of the Flexpipe system.

The lean manufacturing engineer would have been our first choice if it was to define the best person to manage your modular system. The problems with these people is that they may soon tire of spending half or more of their time building structures. Some engineers prefer to design other improvements, while some like to manage the projects. They usually have limited manual skills.


5 - The Flexpipe team

We wouldn’t be experts in material handling systems if we didn’t construct structures ourselves. We have our team of assemblers which builds thousands of structures each year for some of our biggest clients. We also offer help with the designing stage so you can challenge your ideas and improve your concepts. Our team is ideal if you have a big Kaizen blitz coming, and if you lack the resources needed during the assembling stage.

This service is not available for small projects or for facilities too far from our sector. Other businesses who use our assembly team have their structures delivered via freight transporters to their facilities. This is also a less optimal option for facilities far away from Flexpipe since the shipping cost is much higher with complete structures than bulk materials. Furthermore, delays may be longer for our assembly service, plus your team will not have assimilated the knowledge of our assemblers.


4 - Pre-retirement worker

If you have a production worker in pre-retirement, it may be one the best options. Choosing someone with manual skills is preferred. This is an ideal situation for companies that don’t have enough assembly needs to hire a full-time employee. In addition, this existing employee already understands how the company operates.

If this is the first time you introduce a materials handling system like Flexpipe to your business, these people are going to be proud of being part of a new project at the end of their career. If these people are also long-time employees, it is even better because they already know every aspect of production practices that are not well designed and can be improved. They have probably already thought of some designs in the past and would be happy finally to build it to provide a better environment for their co-workers.

There are a few disadvantages to this option. First of all, this worker is probably not familiar with lean manufacturing principles. Secondly, this person will quit within a few years, so you will eventually lose the knowledge they had on the system. Lastly, the pre-retirement worker can have some difficulties with the data processing, which can be an issue on their competencies.


3 - The maintenance team

As far as we know, this option is the most popular in medium and large businesses. These people have the skills, the tools, and often the space needed to assemble structures. They usually have a good relationship with the production team, and they know their frustrations.

The members of this team know the facility equipment better than anyone and may be the best option for designing structures that support the production line. These teams usually love Flexpipe, because it allows them to build something instead of always fixing something. Some of the best concepts we have seen were built by maintenance workers.

The problem with using a team is usually that their primary goal is to make the maintenance of the facility and the equipment easier. This often means that materials handling systems come in second, which could hurt the productivity of the system. The maintenance team is overused most of the time, so tasking them with the assembly of Flexpipe and informing them about lean manufacturing principles could be the wrong decision.


2 - The production team

No one is better suited to building structures than the people who are going to use them. They already know all the little things that could mean improvements for their jobs. There are plenty of case studies out there that talk about how workers have changed even the smallest of steps in the production process and how those changes have saved millions of dollars over time.

A Japanese business allows their production workers to take the time to realize their improvement ideas in a room or place dedicated to building materials handling structures. These employees are supervised by a manager, who may be an engineer to verify that the structures are well built and respect security norms.

There are two major problems when using your production team to assemble Flexpipe structures: First, when they are building structures, they are not producing value at that particular moment. Every improvement they make will eventually pay off in the future, but this could disturb your production flow if not done correctly.

The second problem in making your production team assemble Flexpipe is that they usually don’t have a knowledge of lean manufacturing practices. So as you saw in the example above, you will need to involve an engineer to supervise their work.


1 - The dedicated lean manufacturing team (Moonshiners)

This team dedicates all its time to improving your productivity. This is a multidisciplinary team that will use the Lean Six Sigma principle and tools like Flexpipe to make the most out of your production line. These people probably have encountered a materials handling system before, and they are familiar with it.

Most of the time this team is a combination of the other seven types in this list. We call these people Moonshiners, because they will apply a technique known as the Kaizen Moonshine shop. This option is becoming an industry standard in fields such as Aerospace and Automotive manufacturing. We hope to see more of these teams in other industries in the near future.

The dedicated lean manufacturing team can be a significant investment. This investment will pay off with time. However, we don’t recommend this option for small businesses and if that’s you, we think you should begin with one of the other seven options.


Bonus for seasonal manufacturing companies
If you are a manufacturer with valleys and peaks in the annual production flow, you can use this trick. When the production decreases in the low season, take this time to have your floor workers and engineers work on Flexpipe projects and improve their work environment.

Ideally, those extra resources would only be used to support existing teams or individuals who work on Flexpipe year-round. This could be the right time to make that happen.

5 Ways to Justify Buying Flexpipe Cribs

5 Ways to Justify Buying Flexpipe Cribs

A Flexpipe crib is an investment that at first glance seems expensive. However, here is a list of why it would make your Flexpipe journey easier and what argument you should give to upper management to convince them to buy a Flexpipe crib.

Keep in mind, if those arguments are still not convincing you or your boss you should keep this in your back pocket and after a while of using Flexpipe you should consider revisiting this option. Many of our customers have seen the importance of using a manufacturing hub such as the Flexpipe crib.

1- The Example
Use the Crib to show other members of the team expectations.

By having a Flexpipe crib you are promoting Lean Manufacturing and the 5S principles. Using this tool as a showroom you can easily teach and visually represent these practices to coworkers and upper management to show them the advantages of a material handling system.

2 - The Simplicity
Every Crib comes with detailed instructions to simplify the task at hand.

Flexpipe cribs come with assembly instructions, even if the unit seems complex and you are unsure how to begin, getting started with the assembly instructions makes everything easier and it is a really good way to train others. Everything is precut and all the parts needed are already ordered to facilitate the process for first time users. Here you can train with one or two people to use the Flexpipe modules and use the different components.

3 - The representation of components
Use the Crib to learn how to assemble many commonly used components.

We feature most of the joints and accessories, roller tracks, casters and surfaces in the crib so by assembling the crib you will have a look at all the Flexpipe components. When it comes time to build further structures with swivel joints and complex parts you will have already learned it by building the Flexpipe crib. It’s not only a unit used to understand the system but you will learn how to construct and use the most common components.

4 - Creating a Mini Moonshine Shop
Cribs can be used to designate an area specifically for Flexpipe assembly.

We have been to factories and asked them where they assemble Flexpipe and they just point to pallets with boxes half open on the floor and packs of pipes lying around, a crib allows you to set up a small Moonshine Shop where you will be ready to assemble properly and ergonomically to start building future Flexpipe structures. Flexpipe is fun and when you have a proper set up it’s even more fun. Cribs also, make it easier to introduce new assemblers to projects. To learn more about Moonshine Shops and how to make your very own click here.

5 -The Maneuverability
Cribs can be moved into and stored in small areas.

The Flexpipe crib is a foldable and portable unit so you can open it when you need to use it and close it when you don’t need it. You can just fold it up in the corner when you don’t need it to save space. It takes up less room than a pile of joints or a pallet of tubes laying around. Same can be said for the tools, they are nicely fitted in a drawer so you don’t have to look for them when you need them. When you have a Flexpipe crib it creates a dedicated place and doesn’t take too much space.


Ultimately, the Flexpipe crib is more than a storage unit it is a Moonshine Shop for any 5S project you might have. You may only use half a crib for Flexpipe components and use the other half for 5S tools such as floor tape, visual learning tools, Red Tags, floor marking stickers and any other Lean Manufacturing tool you use. It will become a space where 5S principles and lean principles can be easily seen and implemented daily.

Why using a shadow board will save you time

Why using a shadow board will save you time

I first came across the idea of a shadow board when I was visiting a Plant in the USA as part of a Lean Tour. The idea is very simple.  Basically instead of having the tools you need to do the job, lying about all over the place they are organized in a way that makes them easy to access and put back when you are finished with them.

I must admit I went a bit shadow board crazy once I had gained this new found knowledge but like all new things this madness passed after several counseling sessions.

A Shadow Board is basically a visual way of storing items, using some form of outline or background to indicate where the item should be placed.  You should always locate items closest to the work station first. Normally this will be tools that are used on an hourly or daily basis. In the case of an office environment the same principles apply: frequently used items should be located on the desk.

Shadow boards can be a great way to create visual impact. Basically an outline or shadow is created for each item so that it is easy to see, if it is there or not.

Typically this takes the form of some form of board that is located close to where the items are most frequently used.

What will you need to make one:

Obviously this will depend on your design.

This article is starting to sound a bit like a BBC 'Blue Peter' fact sheet. I always remember writing into the program as a child, to get their blueprint on how to build a Dalek. I am still very optimistic, but after 38 years of waiting I suspect that there is a good chance that the fact sheet is not coming now.

Here is the list:

Some ply wood or MDF as a suitable background for your board. The items you want to shadowboardize ( A new word invented by me) some hooks, some clips, a ruler, Velcro strip for light items, paint for background, a black marker pen, a sharp pencil, and your own personal wit, patience and imagination.

These are the three simple steps involved.
Step 1
Gather all of the tools: Review all of the tools in the vicinity and agree which ones you need to do the job. We are trying to create and environment a bit like an operating theater in a hospital. The surgeon does not go hunting for a scalpel or a pair of forceps now do they.

Just the act of gathering these items can be an interesting exercise. I remember once doing a project at a firm in the USA.The technician had a chest full of tools that was very impressive. I mean really impressive. To do the job in question we only needed seven tools. He had to hunt through his vast collection of tools every time we wanted to do this repetitive task. In fact, we eventually got the number of tools down to four, by welding three of the tools together to make a special tool. These four tools then went on the shadow board. Job done.
Step 2
Having decided on the tools that are required then we need to get a suitable carrier to place them on. This is dependent on the number of items we want to shadowboardize ( my new word again) and the place it is going to be located. For each item we want to be able to understand what it is, how many there should be, and where it should go back to.

Physically place the tools out on the board and create an outline for each item. Take time to do this well, and make things level and straight.

There are several ways of achieving this. You can simply draw around the item carefully with a pencil and then color in the shape with either a black marker, black paint or create the shape using sticky back plastic, cut it out and stick it in position. Once you have created the shadow then you need to find a suitable way of locating the item on the board. This could be a hook, clip, velcro or a simple shelf arrangement or holder. It is also a good idea to label each item on the board.
Step 3
Physically construct the Shadow Board and mount it as close as possible to the operation. It should be very visual and obvious from a distance if something is missing or in use.

Some final Shadow Board Advice.

Do not go overboard with this idea or people with think you have some sort of disorder, and you will lose credibility. When you start to see things like a shadow for where someone’s coffee cup should go on their desk, then you know you have lost the plot. Never use the word shadowboardize without written permission from me.


Graham Ross is co-author of the Lean Training book Tools for Success

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