quality control

Develop Quality Culture: The War Board

For those that don’t know what a war board is in manufacturing let me describe it for you. A war board is a tool used by management to see how each department is doing in safety, quality, cost and other vital activities your business believes important for growth.

This is vital.

For any business, including this tiny one, to grow, it is important that everyone knows how they’re doing in areas they can help control. That’s where the war board comes in. A side benefit of the board is that it involves everyone so they know they’re important to the business.

So are you ready to learn how to set one up? Let’s go!

First, for any us to have a meaningful war board, we have to first be able to measure ourselves against some base line that we establish. Gains and losses are meaningless without some targets to hit.

Once we’ve established the base line, now its time to set our goals. Another way to look at it, is that we’re establishing where we want our base lines to eventually shift to. This is important because Quality Auditors look for continuous improvements and if we do this, then we will be able to show them.

The thing about war boards is that they don’t have to be complicated. If they are, then no manufacturers will really look at one. Use charts and pictures. Color code! Get creative. But know this. You will never get it right the first time you create a war board, so don’t worry, that’s totally normal.

Just get started and it’ll develop into an awesome tool you won’t be able to live without.

I suggest you start out by covering these basic topics:

  • Safety
  • Quality
  • Cost
  • On Time Delivery
  • 5-S

Here’s an example that has some of the above topics, but is customized to fit this particular manufacturer’s needs:

Color coded war board for quality control in manufacturing for Calibration Station.

A great example of a color coded war board.

So go out and make your war board. Got it? Good! Now here are two easy tips to make it more meaningful.

1) You will want to be able to glance at it quickly and know how you’re doing compared to the targets you’ve set. You can do this by defining a min/max area.

For example, let’s say you’ve established your On Time Delivery baseline at 65% and your target at 80%. Great! But let’s be honest, you’re not going to reach 80% overnight. So you’ll want to take your goals in chunks by setting a min/max area. In this case, you don’t want your minimum to get any worse than 65% and set your max to a 10% to 75%.

Now let’s say that week you it’s only 57%. Bummer! Place a clear, red plastic sheet over that data. Make it bleed. At a glance anyone can tell that there is room for improvement in that category. Let’s say next week, after the red glare continuously reminds the team they improved On Time Delivery to 95% place a clear, yellow sheet in front of the data. Now everyone can see how awesome everyone is by beating the target. Donuts for everyone! Now set new targets and keep improving!
Both sets of reminders are important because they show where to improve and where the team is killing, which is important to keep people motivated.

2) Stand up!

That’s right, all War board meetings should be stand up meetings. This is war, act quickly if you want to live! There’s no time for sitting down. Stand up meetings will help keep these brief. They should only last 15 to 20 minutes.

Got it great! Now let’s expand the war board a little.
You’ve got your war board set in your conference room. Shop floor managers and office managers are meeting while standing up, discussing issues and talking about how to solve problems. The war board is being improved upon, targets are being met and everyone’s sharing in the success like a true team. That’s bonus territory!
That sounds great, but what about the rest of the people in your plant? How do you get them involved?

War Board for quality control in manufacturing for Calibration Station


Here are two options
1) Each manager has their own stand up war board meeting with their people, reviewing the war board data that applies to their area, or
2) Create a department war board with just that department’s data on it and have the manager of that area hold weekly meetings with his team to review it.

Bam! That’s it! You are taking advantage of using your whole plant’s mind power to become better. That’s winning.

After your team and plant have gained plenty of battle experience, those war boards are going to be customized and advanced to fit your needs. It’ll look something like this:

Advanced War Board for quality control in manufacturing for Calibration Station

Advanced War Board


The plant I work uses a war board similar to this, except we use the clear red and yellow plastic sheets to help us know where to focus.

So go to war with a war board! Good luck, and may the force be with you! If you have any questions about setting one up, I’d be happy to help! Do you have any of your own improvements on the war board? Let us know in the comments!