Lean Organization With Kaizen Foam and Fast Cap

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This Lean organization and use of Kaizen Foam demonstrated in this article was inspired by a book I read called 2 Second Lean. The book was written by Paul Akers, and is based on the principles of Kaizen, which is a Japanese word that translates closely to “continuous improvement” in english. Paul is a fanatic of Lean principles and Kaizen is at its core.

If you haven’t discovered Lean or Kaizen before, it was made popular by Toyota. There have been many books written on the subject, but they can be very complex and hard to understand. Paul Akers made Lean easy for anyone to understand in his book 2 Second Lean. He is also the owner of Fast Cap, which is a very fascinating company that focuses on woodworking, but they make all kinds of neat gadgets and inventions.

If there is one thing I took from his book, it is this: Fix What Bothers You. If you fixed one thing every day, at the end of a calendar year, you would have fixed 365 things in your life that bothered you. It’s that simple.

If there was one more crucial point I took from Paul’s book, it would be Sweep Every Day. Starting your day by cleaning your space jumpstarts something inside your brain that allows you to move forward instead of sitting stagnate for hours on end. I highly recommend Paul’s 2 Second Lean book for anyone looking for a great foundation of continuous improvement. The book is offered free in many formats, or you can purchase it from a few popular platforms.

Let’s Start With the Problem

Frustrating junk drawer in kitchen.
Frustrating junk drawer in kitchen.

Everyone has junk drawers in their home that serve as catch-alls to everything you would rather not deal with or address. These drawers sit in this state for years, sometimes 20-30 years. Trying to find what you’re looking for in these drawers is like trying to find that missing sock in your dryer.

If you have ever stayed up too late, you probably have one too many sets of knives. For some reason, over the years, we accumulate kitchen knives and have a hard time letting go of them. The crazy part about it, most of us only use about three different knives for our daily kitchen needs. The same could be said about pots and pans.

If all your hand tools are thrown into your toolbox, it might be time to start organizing a little for your sanity. There is no better feeling than walking up to a toolbox and reaching for a specific tool because you know exactly where it is. I know, organization is a lot of work. But, if you do it, it is the gift that will keep on giving for years to come.

What is Kaizen Foam?

Kaizen Foam is a visual presentation that doesn’t let you forget what you have.

Kaizen Foam is a layered foam that comes in 2’ x 4’ sheets that are available in multiple colors. There are three different thicknesses ranging from 20 mm, 30 mm, and 57 mm. They are sold in bundles or single sheets. The thickness of foam you need is determined by what you intend to organize. For instance, if you are organizing larger tools like hammers and mallets, you will want to purchase the 57 mm version.

57mm Kaizen Foam
57mm Kaizen Foam

As demonstrated by the photo above, Kaizen Foam is different from regular foam because it is manufactured with layers. These layers allow you to cut down to a certain depth and easily remove all the foam. It makes for an infinitely customizable storage solution that can be perfectly tailored to your space and workflow. In the next section, you will see what cut Kaizen Foam looks like.

Tools Needed for Kaizen Foam

Kaizen hot knife, long nose market, and FastCap utility knife.
Kaizen hot knife, long nose market, and FastCap utility knife.

FastCap sells all the tools you need to trace, cut, and melt the Kaizen Foam, so you can create the best organization experience possible. The main three tools required are the long nose marker, utility knife, and the Kaizen hot knife.

The long nose marker is what is used to trace out whatever you intend to organize in foam. It features an extra long tip with a 1 7/8” reach that allows you to easily trace any size tool in a black, silver, or gold color.

The FastCap utility knife features an adjustable blade that locks in place, which helps you cut the perfect depth depending on the size of tool you’re organizing. This is a critical piece in the workflow that makes removal of the foam much easier.

Their Kaizen hot knife is used to clean up jagged edges after removing foam layers and for burning in finger holes for easy tool removal. The end of the hot knife is round, which allows you to burn round access points next to any tool you are organizing at the depth you choose.

As you can see, you can now get your finger in under a tool for quick removal after using the hot knife to create access points. You wouldn’t think this would be a big deal, but once you start creating finger holes, you will find it is much easier to remove tools in Kaizen Foam.

How Do You Attach Kaizen Foam?

The easiest way to mount Kaizen Foam to a wall is using the FastCap PowerHead Screws. These screws are strong and feature a large washer type head which does a fantastic job of holding the foam in place.

Here is a PowerHead Screw being used to hold our heaviest set of tools on a wall in our warehouse. This foam has been hanging on the wall for years now without any issues.

The only thing I would recommend when hanging Kaizen Foam on the wall is mounting it at a slight angle, so the tools are leaning back a little. This will help keep the tools from falling out of the foam.

Kaizen Foam Organization Examples

Now, the part you have all been waiting for. The good stuff. Examples of how someone else is organizing their space. In this section, we are going to show how we used Kaizen Foam to organize everything from kitchen drawers to warehouse tools. We have more organization to do, so additional photos may follow in the future as we complete those projects.

Kitchen Knives Organized in Kaizen Foam

We all know how dangerous a drawer full of knives can be. If you would rather not see a block full of knives on your kitchen counter, then this is the solution for you. By going through your knives and selecting only the ones you really use, you will be left with the perfect visual presentation of the most used kitchen tool.

Steak Knives Organized in Kaizen Foam

This drawer became sort of a hybrid since we left the existing silverware organizer and cut foam to size on the right and bottom for steak and pairing knives. I don’t know about your kitchen, but it seems like we use pairing knives 3-4 times a day. Having your knives organized also helps keep their edge longer.

Miscellaneous Kitchen Tools Organized in Kaizen Foam

The infamous miscellaneous kitchen tools that never seem to have a home. They get tossed around from drawer to drawer and sometimes live half the year in the dishwasher for some strange reason. This is another hybrid drawer of sorts. The cheese knife on the left already came in foam, so we worked around it. This drawer incorporates all those extras in perfect harmony. I sometimes wonder if the pairing knife ever gets edgy with the cheese knife after we go to bed?

Wrenches Organized in Kaizen Foam

Oh, what a beautiful sight. This only took me ten years to complete. Well, not really, but it seems like I wanted to complete this project for ten years and I finally got it done. I have a hard time explaining the joy (holding tears back) of walking up to a perfectly organized and labeled set of wrenches. I think this one drawer alone will save me forty hours over my lifetime not searching for that lost wrench.

Screwdrivers Organized in Kaizen Foam

Flathead screwdrivers organized in Kaizen Foam.
Flathead screwdrivers organized in Kaizen Foam.

No, I don’t need this many flathead screwdrivers, but I had them, so they got organized. If I were to organize these two drawers again, I would combine the flathead and phillips screwdrivers into one drawer.

Phillips screwdrivers organized in Kaizen Foam.
Phillips screwdrivers organized in Kaizen Foam.

Ninety-nine percent of the time, we grab the same two screwdrivers over and over for just about every project.

Pliers Organized in Kaizen Foam

Pliers are an interesting thing because you never realize how many types you have. This drawer perfectly sums up the most common pliers I use. It covers all the basis for general repairs, electrical, and plumbing for most people.

Cutters Organized in Kaizen Foam

When you need a knife, you need a knife. This drawer has everything from standard scissors to tin snips for cutting sheet metal. The larger Milwaukee cutters are great for small cable and larger wire, while the FastCap Flush Cutters are probably my go to for most things.

Warehouse Tools in Kaizen Foam

What is a warehouse without some organization and general purpose tools? This has most likely been our most used Kaizen Foam board we have created outside the kitchen. This visual display has you covered from cutting, marking, measuring, stapling, and taping. There doesn’t seem to be a day that goes by we aren’t reaching for something on this display.

Office & Warehouse Supplies in Kaizen Foam

This is actually a general purpose board that was created to go inside a working office. It gives office personnel quick access to commonly used tools that otherwise get lost in a junk drawer. By displaying tools visually, no one forgets where they are.

Other Organization Products Offered by FastCap

FastCap offers a whole world of Lean and organizational products that will make your daily routine much more efficient. Here are just a few we use to keep our working warehouse in order.

Warehouse Parts Organized in Kaizen Cardboard Boxes

Garage door parts organized in Fast Cap Kaizen cardboard boxes with dividers.
Garage door parts organized in Fast Cap Kaizen cardboard boxes with dividers.

FastCap Kaizen Boxes are available in 12” and 24” deep configurations. They are made of heavy wall cardboard and include adjustable dividers. I found these boxes work best when they are supported on the sides by another box. Some of the metal parts we have are heavier, and they can cause the side of the box to blow out if it’s not squeezed in between other boxes or a board. The white labels are sold separately on their website.

Fast Cap Safety Glass Holder

You might be asking why you need a safety glass holder. Well, since the orange holder is shaped like a pair of safety glasses, you always know where they go when you’re finished using them. Second, if you don’t see your safety glasses hanging on the holder, it prompts you to go looking for them.

FastCap Trash Bag Holder

This is one product that I wasn’t sure I would use. It seemed like a great idea, but the question I had was, would it hold the roll of trash bags in place while you pulled one off? I am excited to report it does, and it works well. I have used the heck out of the FastCap Trash Bag Holder and ended up purchasing another one to install in our kitchen pull out trash drawer.

FastCap GPS Tape and Caps

FastCap GPS Tape in assorted colors.
FastCap GPS Tape in assorted colors.

FastCap makes a product called “GPS Tape” that is essentially a colored electrical tap you can wrap around tools, broom handles, dust pans, or anything else you can think of. The concept behind the idea is you choose a designated color for a certain area of your home or warehouse. For instance, our warehouse has been designated “Red” which means anything with red tape on it is supposed to make its way back to our warehouse, which is on the same property as our home. Hence, the name “GPS”.

FastCap GPS Tape in red on screwdrivers.
FastCap GPS Tape in red on screwdrivers.

Here is an example of red GPS Tape being used with screwdrivers on our warehouse Kaizen Foam board. If one of these screwdrivers makes their way out of the warehouse, into a truck, or ends up at an entirely different location, we can quickly identify it as being a warehouse screwdriver.

FastCap GPS Cap in red on stapler.
FastCap GPS Cap in red on stapler.

For products that are harder to wrap tape around, FastCap makes “GPS Caps” which are color coded dots that come in a few sizes with super sticky adhesive. These are great for quickly labeling items where the tape keeps coming off.

Tool color codes for different areas. We use the Fast Cap GPS Tape and Caps to execute this.

Here is a legend we created that shows what colors are assigned to which areas. This keeps everything where it should be so its there the next time you need it. This may seem like overkill, but it actually works really well if you can implement it.

Conclusion

If there is only one thing you take away from this article, it’s the fact that none of this was done in a day. The Lean organization shown in this article was completed slowly over time by applying a couple of basic principle’s. The first being “Fix What Bother’s You” and the second being “Continuous Improvement”.

The “Fix What Bothers You” principle is very simple. Walk into your home, warehouse, or outside for that matter and take a look around. If you see something that bothers you, fix it. It’s that easy. You don’t need your phone, Siri, Reminders, a to-do app, or a note pad. Just fix what is bothering you.

The second principle which is “Continuous Improvement” is the one that will give you peace. I know, you’re probably thinking, “If I always have something that needs to be done, how can I have peace?”. Well, that’s just it. If you come to the understanding that your work is never done and every day you will continue to improve something, you will lay your head down on your pillow at night and sleep like a baby.

You may not ever find the time to read Paul Akers book or do any Lean Organization, but the examples in this article might be just enough to kickstart your next Kaizen Foam project. That way, you never have to ask: “Where do I put that stinking wrench again?”.

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