Have you ever come across an index card with notches at the top and wondered, “what is this thing?” Universally known as T-Cards, these unique index cards are widely used by manufacturers, maintenance teams, warehouse specialists, and even emergency responders to track inventory levels and jobs.
The name “T-card” derives from the card’s unique T-like structure. The distinctive shape lends to the card’s utility by providing users with the ability to simultaneously display top-level information to those just passing by while concealing classified information for individuals that wish to interact with the card below the fold. In short, public info at the top; private info at the bottom. This is the reason many t-cards work as part of an overall system. You’ll commonly find that most t-card systems are comprised of a series of pockets or slots, with each housing a single card. The slots are designed in such a way to hide the bottom portion of the card while keeping the upper third visible. If someone wants to see further details about an item or job, they have to walk up to the board and interact with it.
Often in a manufacturing setting, these card systems are used as a way to manage job-fulfillment measures. Each card typically represents a single assembly job that stacks along the system as job orders come in. Tickets will continue to add to the board as jobs flood the production line, leaving assembly teams responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the system. Oftentimes a single t-card system can be used to track multiple jobs for a single department.
Inversely, Grocery Managers are likely to use t-card systems to track individual stock items, with cards only appearing on the board when inventory levels begin to dip. As a specific item’s stock begins to run low, the item’s associated t-card is then taken off its shelf location and brought to the t-card system. At the end of the day, inventory managers will collect the cards from the system and place an order for additional inventory.
With that being said, there’s no wrong way to use a t-card or t-card system. The only thing that’s a necessity for an effective t-card system is a standardized work process. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has done an excellent job in standardizing t-cards across the nation thanks to their emergency management workflow known as the Standardized Incident Command System (ICS). People familiar with this system may recognize t-cards by their formal nomenclature, a 219 form. According to the official FEMA classification, 219 forms are used to “to record status and location information on resources, transportation, and support vehicles and personnel.“ Every t-card within a standard Incident Command System is managed by a member of the team’s resources unit. It’s this person’s responsibility to maintain and assign resources to a specific incident to an assigned t-card rack. All t-cards in the ICS utilize a simple color-code to represent the varying category of resources available to a unit at any given moment (you can find the full color-code classification below:)
- 219-1: Header Card – Gray (used only as label cards for T-Card racks)
- 219-2: Crew/Team Card – Green
- 219-3: Engine Card – Rose
- 219-4: Helicopter Card – Blue
- 219-5: Personnel Card – White
- 219-6: Fixed-Wing Card – Orange
- 219-7: Equipment Card – Yellow
- 219-8: Miscellaneous Equipment/Task Force Card – Tan
- 219-10: Generic Card – Light Purple