Flexpipe Kaizen Tool

How to deal with motion waste

How to deal with motion waste

One of the eight types of waste identified in lean methodology, motion waste is any movement during a work process that does not add value to the customer. This includes actions such as walking, bending, lifting, and reaching that slow down the process and make the task more difficult for the operator.

As Shoplogix’s Martin Boersema explains in this video, motion waste tends to be the most common type of waste in a work cell—but it is relatively easy to correct through continuous improvement initiatives such as kaizen events.

How to identify motion waste
To identify motion waste, observe the work process and take note of any movement that seems to be slowing things down. Maybe the operator has to walk across the shop to read a set of instructions, or they spend several seconds fiddling with a part.

[caption id="attachment_26243" align="alignnone" width="2560"] One of the eight types of waste identified in lean methodology, motion waste is any movement during a work process that does not add value to the customer.[/caption]

Ask questions to find out why these extra movements are taking place. Once you determine the cause of the waste, you’ll be able to come up with solutions.It’s helpful to conduct a time study on the work process to find out exactly how long it takes to execute each step. If there is fluctuation in the time it takes to perform a particular task—maybe sometimes it takes 30 seconds, but other times it takes 60 seconds—motion waste might be the culprit.
Common types of motion waste
Types of motion waste vary depending on the work process. In an injection molding cell, for example, the operator may have trouble keeping up with the machine’s production cycle if they have to walk several feet away from their workstation to retrieve the parts they need.

Or perhaps they can still keep pace with the machine, but the seconds they spend walking could be better spent on a task that adds value, such as performing an inspection.

In an assembly cell, where the work is performed manually, the efficiency of the process depends on how easily the operator can carry out each step. Small issues might slow down the work—maybe they have to fiddle with a part to get it to fit inside its nest, or they have to rotate their body to reach the tools they need.

If the workspace isn’t organized efficiently, employees will wind up moving around as they search for missing parts, tools, or information.

[caption id="attachment_26252" align="alignnone" width="1920"] If the workspace isn’t organized efficiently, employees will wind up moving around as they search for missing parts, tools, or information.[/caption]
How to reduce motion waste
In many cases, motion waste can be reduced by making necessary equipment more accessible to the operator. This might mean replacing a large cabinet with a tool cart that can be wheeled closer to the operator’s workstation, or perhaps substituting a large bin with several smaller bins so that the operator doesn’t have to reach far inside to retrieve the part they need.

To eliminate motion waste related to searching, it’s important to ensure that all equipment is stored in the right place and properly labeled; there should also be an effective communication system in place. Visual management is a lean technique that can help with this.

Other types of bottlenecks will require their own targeted solution. If an operator is struggling to fit a part inside its nest, the nest might need to be redesigned for a better fit. If an operator has to manually insert a part at one end of a machine and then eject it at the other end, it might be worth examining whether one of those tasks can be automated.

[caption id="attachment_26258" align="alignnone" width="815"] In many cases, motion waste can be reduced by making necessary equipment more accessible to the operator.[/caption]
How motion waste impacts employees
Employees who have to make a lot of unnecessary movements while performing a task often experience fatigue, sore muscles, and sometimes even injury. Some people may not realize the extent to which excessive movement affects them; they might think that a second or two of bending or lifting isn’t a big deal.

However, when solutions are implemented to reduce motion waste, most employees notice that they are less tired, especially at the end of the work week.

[caption id="attachment_26249" align="alignnone" width="815"] To eliminate motion waste related to searching, it’s important to ensure that all equipment is stored in the right place and properly labeled[/caption]

Part of continuous improvement is training employees to spot motion waste and working together to find the right solutions, but it’s also essential to educate managers about the problem.

Ultimately, they will be the ones implementing the improvements that will make a significant difference in their employees’ quality of life.

About Shoplogix
With its industry-leading smart factory platform, Shoplogix helps manufacturers reduce operating costs and maximize profitability by unlocking hidden production performance improvements. Headquartered in Oakville, Ontario, the company has an international presence, with offices around the globe.

Tips for a successful kaizen event

Tips for a successful kaizen event

Kaizen is a Japanese word meaning “continuous improvement,” and it refers to the incremental steps taken to create a more efficient, optimized workplace. As the concept of kaizen has gained popularity in North America, many companies have started holding kaizen events to improve specific areas or processes, as Shoplogix’s Martin Boersema explains in this video.

What is a kaizen event?

The goal of a kaizen event is to make improvements to a particular area or process within a business. In the manufacturing sector, this involves a kaizen facilitator meeting with operators and supervisors, usually over a few days. The aim is to analyze the current process and identify potential improvements.

How to lead a successful kaizen event

If you’re facilitating a kaizen event, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Don’t try to solve the problem yourself.
To understand the problem and identify the right solutions, speak with the people most familiar with the process you’re analyzing: the operators. Ask them what problems they deal with on the job every day. Their answers will help you determine the appropriate improvements.
Choose your team carefully.
Most participants in your kaizen event should be directly involved in the process you’re reviewing. Include the operators, but also the supervisor, as they will be the one overseeing any changes you decide to make. It’s also a good idea to invite an employee who is not involved in the process—they can often provide a fresh perspective on the problem at hand.
Understand the company’s goals.
As leader, you’re responsible for ensuring that any proposed changes are in line with the company’s strategic objectives. This means finding a balance between optimization and what the company needs. For instance, you might find a way for an assembly line to produce 300 parts per hour, but if only 200 parts per hour are required, this “improvement” may not be necessary.

How to handle reluctant participants
Some employees may be reluctant to participate in a kaizen event. They may feel that their work process is fine the way it is. Or, they may have reported problems with their work process in the past and feel frustrated that no one listened to them. They may think the kaizen event isn’t going to solve anything.

The best way to deal with reluctant employees is to talk with them on the shop floor. Ask them to walk you through their work process and what problems they have with it. If there’s room for improvement, it will most likely come to light during your discussion.


The key is to have these conversations at the worksite, not in a classroom. The kaizen event participants will be able to show you the challenges they struggle with, and you’ll get a more complete picture of the situation.
A common pitfall of kaizen events

Let’s say you lead a successful kaizen event that yields a list of useful improvements to be made and a plan for how to implement them. But then, weeks later, you discover that the work process has reverted to its former inefficient state. Why? It turns out that the manager wasn’t on board with the changes.

When leading a kaizen event, you must make sure the people in charge approve of the proposed changes. They will be the ones deciding whether to follow through on your recommendations, so be sure to take the time to explain how the changes will benefit them, their team, and the company as a whole.
The impact of a successful kaizen event
The improvements that come out of a kaizen event will ultimately lead to a better return on investment for the company. Small improvements (5S activities, for example) may not have a major impact on the bottom line in and of themselves, but over time, they add up.

For the employees, however, even small changes tend to have an immediate impact: suddenly, they have a solution to a problem they’ve been struggling with, in some cases for a long time. In this way, kaizen events often lead to happier, more engaged employees.

About Shoplogix
With its industry-leading smart factory platform, Shoplogix helps manufacturers reduce operating costs and maximize profitability by unlocking hidden production performance improvements. Headquartered in Oakville, Ontario, the company has an international presence, with offices around the globe.


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

See how the modular system can increase production efficiency by 25% in manufacturing processes at Hologic.

Easy Steps to successful Value Stream Mapping

Easy Steps to successful Value Stream Mapping

Value stream mapping involves creating a detailed visualization of all the steps in your manufacturing process, allowing you to identify problems and potential improvements. It’s one of the fundamental tools of lean management, as TXM’s Normand Sawyer explains in this video.

What is a value stream?
The term “value stream” refers to the series of steps an organization takes between the initial order of raw materials and the delivery of the finished product to the customer. This includes both value-added actions (steps that contribute to the product’s value for the customer) and non-value-added actions (steps that bring no value to the customer, such as moving equipment or waiting between tasks).
What is a value stream map?
A value stream map is a detailed flow chart representing every step in your manufacturing process. It shows you how materials and information progress through your workspace and indicates all inventory points and processing and lead times, helping you spot bottlenecks and wasteful activities.

Value stream mapping actually entails creating two maps: one of your value stream as it currently operates, and another representing your ideal future process, with current problems solved.

Creating a detailed map of your workflow’s current state is a crucial first step. To find effective solutions, you’ll need a thorough understanding of your existing process.
Why create a value stream map?
The essential function of a value stream map is to help you visualize the following aspects of your production process:

Flow of information: How information is communicated throughout the workspace
Flow of materials: How parts progress through the workspace
The big picture: How individual processes fit together as a whole

Representing these things visually makes it easier to spot strengths and weaknesses across your entire workflow—not just in specific areas. For instance, you might notice that operators spend the first five minutes of their shift awaiting instructions from a supervisor. You can then figure out how to eliminate that wait time, such as by posting instructions at workstations. Or, you might see that parts tend to pile up at one workstation, causing delays further down the production chain. You can then come up with a strategy to eliminate the bottleneck.

If you’re planning to adopt the principles of continuous improvement in your workplace, it’s best to start with value stream mapping. You’ll find out exactly what needs to be fixed and be better equipped to choose the right solutions.
How do you create a value stream map?
First, choose which process you wish to map. If you manufacture several types of products, they likely go through different processes and will each require their own map.

Once you’ve decided which value stream to focus on, put together a team. Value stream mapping is not a solo endeavour—to get an accurate picture of your current workflow, you’ll need to consult the people who are performing the tasks.

Next, begin gathering data. To ensure accuracy, it’s essential to observe operators at work and ask questions rather than relying on reports from managers. The goal is to get realistic information about each step, such as turnaround time, quality level, and changeover time, as well as details about any setbacks the operators face. Let people know your goal is to find ways to improve the overall workflow, not to criticize their performance; they’ll be more honest about the challenges they face and may volunteer useful information.

Now it’s time to map out your data on a whiteboard. The finished value stream map should resemble a flow chart, with detailed notes about every step of the workflow. Analyze your map and identify problems that need to be addressed.

Consider what changes could be made to solve these issues. You can start by asking yourself what the customer needs, then work backwards: what should the finished product look like? What steps are involved in creating that product? Can any steps be combined or eliminated? The answers to these questions will allow you to map your ideal workflow and determine how to achieve it.

Above all, remember that value stream mapping is a diagnostic tool, enabling you to assess the health of your production chain as a whole. Once you’ve completed a value stream map, you can implement specific lean manufacturing techniques, such as an Andon system or visual management, to create a more robust workflow.


TXM - Who they are?
TXM is a leading international lean consulting company with projects in more than 15 countries. Established in 2004, the company’s scope has since expanded beyond the manufacturing industry, with a team of diverse lean professionals lending their expertise to the resources, services, agriculture, supply chain, and distribution sectors.

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

See how the modular system improve operational efficiency while saving time in manufacturing processes at Waterax.

Lean visual management for machines, maintenance and operations

Lean visual management for machines, maintenance and operations

One of the principal tools of lean manufacturing, visual management is used to communicate information about your operations in a way that is easy to understand at a glance, helping to facilitate safer and more effective workflows as well as saving time and reducing waste.

In this video, Leslie Pickering, co-owner of consulting firm Quadrant5, explains some of the key concepts of visual management and how they can help you make your workspace more efficient.

Communicate with visual indicators
Visual indicators, such as colours and floor markings, are one of the simplest ways to convey information in your workplace, allowing employees to locate equipment or determine production status with just a glance.

For instance, you might mark the upper end of a floor-to-ceiling pole with red paint to signal the location of a fire extinguisher. Or, you might install different coloured anodized washers behind lubrication points to indicate different types of lubricants or different lubrication schedules (for example, red for weekly lubrication and yellow for monthly lubrication). Colours can also be assigned to machines, parts bins, and their associated tools so that there is never any doubt as to which tool should be used for a given machine.

Floor markings, meanwhile, can be used to communicate workflow and define the purpose of particular areas of your space, such as loading and unloading zones.

Optimize efficiency with visual aids

The idea behind visual aids is to lay out all the tools an employee needs to perform a particular task, and nothing else. They can be configured in various ways depending on the operator’s needs.

Tool boards—either a wall or a mobile board with a spot for every tool, designated by colour, shape, and label—are a great example of a visual aid. Unlike with toolboxes, a missing tool can be spotted immediately, meaning the operator can easily determine whether they have everything they need before beginning their task. A well-designed tool board will have plenty of space between tools so that the operator can easily pick them up.

Boost productivity by reconfiguring visual spaces

It’s a good idea to look at individual workstations, storage spaces, and equipment and assess how their layout might be improved; this can save operators significant time and effort.

Workstations should be tailored to meet the needs of the people who use them every day, and with the expectation that processes will change, ensuring maximum usefulness and adaptability.

A disorganized shelving rack, for example, might benefit from the addition of a pipe-and-joint system to keep materials organized and in place, thereby reducing the time the operator spends looking for a given material.

Consider also the differences between a heavy steel cart versus a modular cart with a pipe-and-joint system: when transporting materials, the modular model is not only lighter, but can also be adapted to accommodate different shapes.

These examples highlight just a few of the ways visual management can improve process efficiency. What’s more, these techniques are in many cases cost-effective and relatively simple to implement.

Protective panels for Le Chaînon

Protective panels for Le Chaînon

Le Chaînon is a Montreal-based organization that has been helping women in transition since 1932. In addition to its helpline and support services available at all times, it offers short and long-term accommodation to more than 500 women annually.


One of its most-used services is emergency accommodation, which houses 12 women every day. They spend the night in a secure dormitory, can eat supper and breakfast, and receive many services, such as healthcare and clothing care.

Unfortunately, with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, the shelter had to reduce its lodging capacity by almost 50%. In fact, due to the physical distancing measures decreed by Public Health, only seven women could sleep there.

Since the occupancy rate was 100% before the health crisis, the organization did not want to penalize those needing its services by accommodating fewer women.
Helping Le Chaînon continue its mission
Le Chaînon’s management came up with the idea of installing protective panels. After doing some research, they learned that Flexpipe made sneeze guards to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Excited by this great project, we donated several panels to them and made the trip to Montreal to come and install them.

Flexpipe sneeze guards are made with steel tubing and connectors that form the frame of the structure. Mika fabric, which helps block droplets, forms the wall and is attached to the frame with self-locking tie wraps.

There are several models, some of which are installed directly on the floor, and others on counters or furniture. Regardless of the model, assembly time is generally only 15 to 20 minutes per panel.

Panel installation
At Le Chaînon, we installed protective panels in the dormitory, as well as in the common dining room. In the first case, we installed partition walls between each of the 12 beds, starting at the height of the pillows. 

Since the fabric used for the panels is transparent, the organization’s officials can easily see each of their residents and chat with them, while respecting the hygiene rules related to COVID-19. Solid panels, for example those made of plywood, would not have provided the same advantage.

In the dining room, we installed smaller sneeze guards the middle of each of the tables. Thus, the organization can serve as many meals as it wishes, without having to reduce its capacity. Additionally, women can sit across from each other to eat and chat, which helps to overcome isolation.

Mika fabrics not only improve communication, they also increase the lifespan of the panels. If the fabric ever got damaged, the organization would not need to get a new structure, it would only need to replace the damaged fabric, a process that only takes a few minutes. Tubes and connectors are strong and built to last for years.

Multi-purpose equipment
Once the pandemic is over, Le Chaînon can easily use the protective panels to meet new needs. Like the other Flexpipe products, these are fully modular and easily convert into a shelf or support for an electronic tablet or laptop.

We are very happy to have helped this wonderful community organization continue to operate during this time of uncertainty. Thanks to our sneeze guards and partition walls, Le Chaînon can continue to welcome and support women in transition in a safe environment for everyone.

How the Andon system can help production flow

How the Andon system can help production flow


If you’re like most manufacturers, you probably still rely primarily on manual operations, which are prone to problems that can affect the entire assembly line. A great way to quickly pinpoint issues at manually operated workstations, improve response time, and reduce downtime is through an Andon system.


What exactly is an Andon? The term Andon is the Japanese word for paper lanterns. The Andon system, a lean manufacturing process, was originally pioneered by Toyota as a signal system using lights to alert a manager to the occurrence and location of a problem on the assembly line.

In this informative video, Bob Wilson, an Andon and lean manufacturing consultant, explains the main features of the wireless Andon system and how it can maximize productivity and promote continuous improvement at your plant.
The wireless Andon system
While traditional Andon systems tend to be expensive, time-consuming to install, and not very flexible, Wilson’s wireless invention is easy to deploy and add to over time. The web-based system gives you a visual representation of the status of your line that you can check anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Simple and customizable
The Andon system is user-friendly and easy to customize. You can set it up to suit your exact needs today—and tomorrow, as your plant evolves.

Multiple usage levels
You can use the wireless Andon system at different levels, from entry to advanced. At the entry level, the system lets you spot problems and shorten response times through an online display board and email/text notifications. As you become more familiar with the system, you can use it to analyze downtimes, create incident reports, monitor problem areas, prioritize key tasks, and schedule maintenance.

The escalation process
The wireless Andon system can be programmed to include different levels of escalation based on your priorities and urgency levels. For instance, if the line is down for 10 minutes, a notification is sent to the team leader. But if the issue isn’t addressed within, say, 30 minutes, the issue is escalated to the next level and a manager is notified.

Reporting events
Every time a notification is sent, the system records all the related data. You can also add more details to it. You can then go back, filter the information, and use it to monitor workstations, fix recurring issues, or make improvements.

Why not just jot everything down manually, like Toyota?
At Toyota, when an employee pulls the cord to alert a supervisor, they record the event manually, based on their interpretation. The reports are then placed in a stack that is eventually sorted by hand to see what needs attention. Not exactly streamlined!

What’s OEEE?
You’re likely familiar with OEE: overall equipment effectiveness. But you probably don’t have detailed data about your employees and workstations. With the wireless Andon system, however, you get OEEE data: overall equipment and employee effectiveness.

Want to make your manual operations more efficient? Contact Industrial Andons for more information.

About our guest speaker Bob Wilson

Bob Wilson is the owner of Industrial Andons and Jidoka Consulting. Bob invented, patented and developed a wireless Andon system used by companies across a broad range of industries to greatly improve their quality and productivity. He started his lean learning while working for Toyota and Ford, experiences that led him to become a Kaizen Circle Leader and to earn a Six Sigma Black Belt Certification.

Bob has worked on lean implementation projects ranging from the shop floor to engineering and business processes. At AMD, he led the Lean Engineering Team, launched and led the Lean Academy and the Lean Global Ops team, and currently works on Strategy and Innovation.

Bob co-authored the book First, Fire the Consultants! published in 2020.

Website: industrialandons.com
Contact: industrialandons.com/contact
Phone: 1-866-290-7551


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

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

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


Like during surgery the assisting person is like a Water Spider, they allow the surgeon to perform the added value task with no distraction.

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

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

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

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

keep an eye on less experienced personnel.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learn more on how to maximize productivity with the Andon system. A great way to quickly pinpoint issues at manually operated workstations, improve response time, and reduce downtime is through an Andon system.

The Japanese Influence
[caption id="attachment_21921" align="alignnone" width="900"] Taiichi Ohno, the founder of the Lean Approach[/caption]

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

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

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

Read on to learn how a modular pipe handling system helped Hologic increase its productivity by 25%.

Extra recommendations!

For every workstation on the assembly line create a spaghetti diagram of the stock replenishment path
Work on small and regular milk runs
Clock the water spider with a pedometer to log the typical distance travel and ask how this could be improved
Supermarket should be not too far from the assembly line. There may be more than one supermarket for longer lines.
An exhausted water spider is a good sign that something is wrong. And at this point, he might now be able to see clearly.

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

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

See how the modular system improve operational efficiency while saving time in manufacturing processes at Waterax.


T-slot Aluminum Extrusions Vs. Pipes and Joints

T-slot Aluminum Extrusions Vs. Pipes and Joints

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

This guide will cover the following:

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

Not sure what is flexpipe?

ask for a free sample

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

Pipes and Joints

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

T-slot Aluminum Extrusions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flow racks 

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

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


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

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

Workstations and workbenches 

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

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

Modular boards

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image from 5S Supply, Tool Tracer™ Tool Shadow's expert to stay organized.


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 color coding calls attention to missing parts.
Make your own shadow board

3 simple 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 is two determining factors at this step in the process.
Here are some examples of our customer's shadow boards as a source of inspiration. Some chose to use materials they already had on hand, while others opted for laser cut-outs in foam panels.

Photo credit: Trilogiq

Photo credit: Trilogiq
If this type of shadow board interests you, we highly recommend its manufacturer - who also happens to be one of our suppliers: OSAAP AMERICA.
This Maine-based company, in the US, produce boards made of various types of foam, most with laser cut-outs for added precision. Curious to see how they do it? Take a look.
Types of pegboard
High density polyethylene is a 1/4 inch thick white plastic surface. This type of material is rigid, the high density of this product makes it shatterproof and ultra durable. This surface is easily cut with a decent saw. For more information, refer to product D-PEGW-481/4 on the online store.


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 rust issues. Finally, remember that metal conducts electricity, so take precautionary measures to provide your employees with a safe work environment.


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

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

You can also make your shadow boards out of foam if, for example, you need to store or handle fragile parts a production line. You'll notice that most of these shadow boards are placed on a wheel-mounted cart or rack.
If you decide to build a foam shadow board, there are several grades of foam from which to choose. On the other hand, the more the foam is porous, the more difficult it will be to cut, as Ethafoam for example. There are 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 of the type of material you choose for the shadow board, we suggest dividing it into sections. It will be much easier to alter only a portion of the entire board, instead of the whole thing, should you have to move tools around.
Step 3 - draw the outline of your tools
To begin, set your tools on the panel to use up space in the most optimal way. This task may be painstaking as you'll have to try a few configurations before finding the ideal one.

Be sure to 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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


[caption id="attachment_18909" align="alignnone" width="814"] Here are dividing panels for working side by side[/caption]


[caption id="attachment_18939" align="alignnone" width="814"] Here are dividing panels for face to face work.[/caption]


[caption id="attachment_18888" align="alignnone" width="814"] Here is a separator panel that will help create a distance between employees.[/caption]

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

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

[caption id="attachment_19444" align="alignnone" width="814"] Point of use tooling (POUT) with four swivels caster with total lock brake[/caption]


[caption id="attachment_19450" align="alignnone" width="814"] Steel Tool cabinet that was put on caster[/caption]

3– Strengthening your 5S program
Even though 5S can increase productivity and reduce the risk of accidents, it will also be advantageous when disinfecting work tools.

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

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


[caption id="attachment_19454" align="alignnone" width="814"] The 5S system facilitates the disinfection of workstations.[/caption]

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

Over the next few weeks, you may have to operate with limited staff. If you have never done so, don't hesitate to reassign one of your temporarily laid-off employees to update your work procedures and standards, especially if you are eligible for government assistance for businesses.
5– Using visual cues
Visual cues are quick and easy to set up. Using different colored tape, draw lines on the ground to clearly delineate the corridors and separate work areas in your plant. For example, at Flexpipe, we have created one-way corridors to prevent people from crossing each other.

Don't hesitate to use vinyl that sticks to the floor to clearly mark the two-meter distance your staff must respect, especially in busy areas such as the cafeteria.

[caption id="attachment_19513" align="alignnone" width="1280"] Visual cues are quick and easy to set up[/caption]

6– Managing the flow of materials to work cells
Consider identifying the materials, raw materials, work in process, and finished products within each work cell in your plant to limit contact between your employees and other stakeholders.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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