Shadow boards have divided opinion amongst hygiene managers since their creation.

Used by hundreds of food businesses across the UK – from bakeries to breweries, meat manufacturers to dairy producers – shadow boards provide a dedicated home for cleaning equipment, small utensils, and mobile tools, facilitate visual organisation of equipment and colour-coding segregation.

A Quorn Foods shadow board

There are, however, certain problems which frequently resurface with shadow boards.

Before you read this article, we’re going to be upfront and openly say that we sell shadow boards at Klipspringer. In fact, we’ve been the leading supplier of shadow boards across the food industry since popularising them in 2011.

But this article has been written for one purpose only: to give you all the information to overcome shadow board issues and make the best decision for you and your organisation, even if that means not choosing us.

Read on for the four most common issues with shadow boards.

Problem 1. Cleaning behind Shadow Boards

Cracks and crevices are a common cause of non-conformances.

Why?

Because they create ‘bug traps’, making them hard to reach and thoroughly clean. Bug traps provide a hotspot for microbiological organisms to reside and grow into a costly non-conformance.

Shadow boards are designed to enhance manufacturing cleanliness standards. But, if designed with crevices or constructed using poor materials which crack and create these bug traps, this flaw can lead to the opposite.

There are, however, various solutions which can ensure that shadow boards drive compliance and food safety as intended.

Heineken Shadow Boards

When dealing with the problem of how to clean behind shadow boards, our team recommend three options.

The first option is suitable in most scenarios: magnetic mounting.

As the most popular solution for wall-mounted shadow boards, magnetic mounting allows for rapid installation and easy removal for cleaning.

No more bug traps, no more non-conformances – but hygiene teams reap all the rewards of shadow boards, from traceability of equipment to colour-coded segregation to avoid cross-contamination.

A magnetically mounted board in use at Stourgarden
A mobile freestanding shadow board

Now, most factories have walls made of magnetic materials, otherwise known as ‘white walling’. But other factory walls, made of plastic or concrete based materials, are not magnetic, and therefore require a different solution.

In these scenarios, our team usually suggest a freestanding shadow board.

These are either static freestanding shadow boards, ideal for factories with limited wall space, or mobile freestanding shadow boards (depicted left), which can be moved around as required with brake castors.

A third option is a through-board hook, which overcome the need for rails on shadow boards – a major bug trap. By removing any crevices or small parts, through-board hooks ensure that shadow boards stay hygienic, easy to clean, and free of any foreign body risks.

These three shadow board options have been implemented by food business including Quorn, Bakkavor, Arla, Krispy Kreme and Morrisons as a solution to the problem of cleaning behind shadow boards.

Through-board hooks

This has resulted in shadow boards becoming an industry staple – but only when their various problems have been dealt with.

Read on to learn about unreturned equipment, a second problem which frequently arises with shadow boards.

Problem 2. Unreturned Equipment

According to a leading audit body, 60% of non-conformance issues relate to poor housekeeping of small manufacturing and production utensils.

As a dedicated home for utensils, shadow boards offer a solution to that particular non-compliant problem – but only when utilised correctly.

Sometimes, hygiene teams say that shadow boards “don’t work” because, while they are appealing in principle, equipment can still be misplaced. The below picture shows a typical example observed by our team on site visits.

The effectiveness of shadow boards depends on the accountability teams apply to them – after all, the utensils won’t magically return themselves!

So, what is the solution to unreturned equipment and empty shadow boards?

The answer is culture, guided by team training.

While this solution is not as tangible as magnetic mounting or indelible marking, we would argue that it is the cornerstone of any successful hygiene plan.

Team culture is so important that we’d go as far as saying do not buy a shadow board – not until each member of your staff has been trained in the process of effectively using a shadow board to store, segregate, and protect your hygiene utensils.

Implementing an accountability system to ensure that all equipment is returned to its designated ‘shadow’ by the end of the washdown will guarantee your production spaces remain clean and clutter-free.

A common occurrence in some factories...

For example, every shift manager could be given the responsibility of ensuring that all utensils are accounted for before signing off or handing over to the next shift manager.

It is also relevant to underline the importance of a thoroughly planned initial design and placement of shadow boards. Hygiene teams are likelier to use the boards correctly if helped by strategic placement.

In other words, if a site requires storage for around 100 utensils, housing these across five huge boards is less efficient regarding accessibility, accountability, and space-saving. It would be smarter to design ten smaller shadow boards (each housing ten tools) and place each closer to their area of use.

Problem 3. Upfront Cost

Most shadow boards come with a considerable upfront cost.

Depending on the customisation, durability, size, material, and mounting methods, this price can vary massively. The type of shadow board is also significant in determining price, as demonstrated below.

Tool Boards

 Cleaning Stations (Wall Mounted or Magnetic)

Cleaning Stations (Mobile/Free Standing)

Visual Management

Used to store a set of related tools and supplies

Used to group hygiene-related apparatus for ease of access and usage/colour segregation. Price includes cleaning utensils.  

Used to group hygiene-related apparatus for ease of access and usage/colour segregation. Price includes cleaning utensils.  

Used to communicate essential information (e.g. procedures, maps, objectives)

£100-£250

Small: £100-£250

Large: £200-£450

£600-£850

£100-£250

Upfront cost is an objection we frequently hear at Klipspringer, as our shadow boards are often at the higher end of the price scale when compared to other cheaper and lower-grade options on the market.  

When hygiene teams tell us that shadow boards’ upfront costs stretch their budget, we often ask what the return on investment might be.

For instance, a relatively large, bespoke tool board might cost in the ballpark of £200. This is not insignificant. But appraising the ongoing costs of replacing lost or damaged equipment puts it into perspective.

If used by correctly-trained teams, shadow boards can see a return on investment within just a few months – and that’s just when looking at equipment damage.

Additional factors to consider are increased productivity in line with the 5S Principles (with employees wasting less time searching for tools) and improved audit scores during factory inspections.

Shadow boards are proven to increase audit scores

Problem 4. Insufficient Space

Fourthly and finally, insufficient space.

Some hygiene teams tell us that they would love to implement a shadow board system for cleaning stations, visual management, and equipment storage – but their factory lacks the necessary space.

At first glance, these scenarios appear tricky. After all, you can’t expand the size of your factories just to incorporate shadow boards.

There are however, two simple solutions.

The first solution is mobile shadow boards.

These boards can be wheeled in and out of food production areas when needed, allowing your team to reap the rewards of shadow boards without having to sacrifice a permanent space for them.

A magnetically mounted board at Frankie & Benny's

The second solution is to use more adequately sized – in other words, smaller – shadow boards. By implementing, for example, ten smaller boards each housing ten tools, rather than five boards each housing twenty tools, your production space can be maximised.

If not, wall shadow boards can also be a relevant solution. These are typically cheaper, and can involve either wall-mounted boards, or magnetically mounted boards. Neither mounting method takes up more space than a rail on the wall.

For the most flexibility, we’d recommend magnetically mounted shadow boards, which benefit from rapid installation and easy removal for cleaning.

Shadow boards

Shadow board Inspiration Guide

Want to learn more about shadow boards? From engineering tool boards and storage for your spill kits to PPE bases and change part stations, there are over 70 shadow board designs to explore in our Inspiration Guide.

In this article, our team have summarised four of the most common problems with shadow boards and offered various solutions to overcome each.

We understand that shadow boards still might not be the right choice for you under certain circumstances. But, if you are interested in learning more about the costs of shadow boards, this article explains more. If you would like any further guidance in this area, you can contact us on 01473 461800 or sales@klipspringer.com. Alternatively, you can use the form below to arrange a consultation.

If you would like further guidance relating to Shadow Boards, the Klipspringer team would be happy to help. Share your details below.