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Organising a shift engineer team's tools. - Shadow Foam

Organising a shift engineer team's tools.

Believe it or not, it was eight years ago that we first undertook a tool control project for nearby Morrisons Manufacturing. Now, it’s time to re-visit and get things renewed, refreshed and re-organised for their shift engineer teams.

the shift engineer team use their tools constantly
The original Morrisons tool control project back in 2015 for their shift engineer teams

The history tool control

Back in the day, Jonathan used to be a shift engineer with Morrisons Manufacturing. So this positioned him perfectly to go in there back in 2015 and get a shift tool management system implemented with them. This is just an element of a 5S project they work with in their Engineering Workshop.

5s (sometimes referred to as Lean, Kaizen, Continuous Improvement etc) for tool control is essentially ordering all hand tools into an audit-friendly system. As in all FMCG manufacturing environments, internal audits were commonplace. Not to mention BRC Food Safety audits too, so the tool control has to be impeccable.

The unit operated a 4-shift pattern, hence why 4 total sets of tools were ordered and assigned, one per shift. When the project was originally done, there were many key deciding factors when making the decision. Just how do you get a tool control system in place given the sheer volume of tools?

The benefit of Shadow Foam vs custom CNC cut inserts tool cont

If they’d had to send all those tools away to be CNC cut into specialist tool control foam, the cost would have been over £6k. Moreover, they wouldn’t have had use of those tools for several weeks. Additionally each time a tool was lost, if a newer version had to replace it, that would be costly. Since the individual drawer liner that housed it would also need to be replaced at a cost of around £200 a time. You can see why this would be prohibitive!

However using Shadow Foam, the tools could be cut quickly into the foam, on site, during the off-shift times. So all done without having to send them away for long periods of time. If a shift engineer had lost a tool and the new replacement tool profile was different, it’s much much cheaper and quicker to simply order another Shadow Foam insert. Much more preferable than forking out several hundreds of pounds for a newly machined insert.


So eight years on, it’s fair to say the previous inserts had pretty much stood the test of time. But they were looking very much the worse for wear after so much continual use. The old grade of Polyurethane foam that these were made from used to be called Shadow Foam Original. This foam however was discontinued a few years ago now. Our newer grade is more robust, and will stand up to the rigours of repeated use. Plus from a tool control perspective, the cleanable, wipable nature of the new foam is much more suited to use in this environment.

A seven year old sheet of tool control foam made from Shadow Foam Original,  An older, less durable and cleanable grade of foam.
After 7 years of near constant use, the original foam was ready for an upgrade to something more durable and suited to the working environment.

Having spent some time with the engineering team, we established what tools needed adding into the kits. Also we knew what their requirements were, so we could head off shopping. First stop for tools for us is always Winsford based Warnhill Tools and Fasteners. They always have a huge array of tools from all the major brands. So we knew we could pretty much get everything we needed. Next stop, for the purpose of refreshing the rollcabs, was D & J Factoring of Northwich. Here we got our sanders, primers, paints and laquers so we could set to work with that.

Painting the rollcab

This was the logical first job to start. Getting all the prep work done with this and getting the first layer of paint on meant we could continue working on the other elements of the job as the paint dried between coats. It’s no accident that Morrisons Manufacturing have a different coloured tool station for each shift. This is so the right tools are returned to the right consoles at the close of each shift. Then, the next team in repeat the process with their “colour coded” set of tools.

Today we are working on the blue set and organising the Draper Expert 7 Drawer Roll Cab. After removing all the tools from the roll cab, we were able to clean and sand the base. Next we removed the handles and taped off any areas we needed to protect when painting. Then painting could begin, with our primer base coat. Once that had gone off, we got to work with the first coat. We used Hammerite Smooth Blue which gives a nice glossy finish and is relatively inexpensive.

The end result? It was actually a lighter shade of blue than the one originally on the box which didn’t quite match the rest of the lockers. So we’ve taken it from a navy blue to more of a royal blue. We followed this with 3-4 coats of laquer to make it as hard wearing as possible. This should definitely now stand up to the rigours of the envionment it will be in.

The drawers

With many years-worth of grease and dirt build up on them simply though day to day use, there was going to be a little cleaning needed. They came up really nicely with just a little HG Sticker Remover, some time and some elbow grease. And then, of course, it’s time to get them all lined with Shadow Foam. Of course, for the blue set, we went with our blue foam. There were 7 drawers in the roll cab. Armed with one of our Shadow Foam cutting kits, and 7 custom sized sheets of 50mm foam, we were ready to get started on cutting the tools in.

We knew how the shift engineer team wanted their tools laid out. From there, by simply planning the format and cutting in finger pulls for ease of access we were able to house every tool within the drawers.

The result? tool control

You can see the full project here. Whilst this is Lean or Kaizen organisation, or Continuous Improvement in the workplace on a relatively large scale, it does illustrate how it can be applied to any business of any size.

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