You Can Count On It

By Joe Torrago on April 11, 2019

You Can Count On It....

These are words we absolutely want to hear both in our everyday personal life and as well as in our professional life. Anytime there is an issue or something to be accomplished, we yearn to hear someone say, ‘I got this, you can count on it’. 

However, when it comes to counting ‘things’, this conjures images of overflowing ballot boxes, guessing how many jelly beans are in a jar, grains of sand on the beach or other un-countable items. If only there was a way to count things or better yet let something do the counting for you?

Enter the egg carton. A relatively simple device, ubiquitous, unassuming, blending into the scenery and background in your refrigerator or on the grocery shelf. We take its counting function for granted as we rely more on its function of keeping our eggs safe and ready for use. But think about the egg carton for a moment as a counting device. Open it up at the grocery store and you know instantly if there are any missing eggs. Open it at home and in that same instant, know how many remain and the appropriate sense of urgency in which to act.  

I work with many manufacturing clients who count their items such as raw material, Work-In-Process (WIP) and finished goods multiple times. They ask how to eliminate or reduce any of these counting steps and I mention the egg carton approach. Whatever it is you must count, can you put it into an egg carton of sorts that will do the work for you? Of course, I am not talking about a literal egg carton, but a container with the same basic characteristics. One that has only so many spots to put an item, makes it obvious when it is full, obvious when it is empty, and obvious when it needs to be reordered and makes it nearly impossible to put things into incorrectly.


Of course, your egg carton does not need to hold multiples of the same item. Think about the wooden alphabet puzzles you would give to a toddler learning their ABC’s. That is another version of an egg carton that holds 26 unique items. Same characteristics as what I mentioned above. Additionally, you don’t even need to know what all the letters are as in the picture on the left of the Cyrillic Alphabet. Each letter, or item, can only fit in one spot and is obvious if it is either missing or in the incorrect location.


A recent client was struggling with ensuring all the required parts of an assembly were available at the same time. I mentioned the egg carton approach to them and even simulated this with an actual egg carton and wooden puzzle. Through several iterations, they came up with the “egg carton” pictured on the right. It not only shows the outline of each part, it also indicates how many of each item should be there with vertical post guides equal to the thickness of the parts. This works for the supplier allowing them to know what parts and how many are required. It also is the re-order ticket when it shows up empty. It also works for the customer to know they have all the parts they need.  

I encourage you to think about your counting exercises and how you can apply the egg carton approach to do the counting for you.

Contact MAMTC if you would like help with your egg carton solution.