DPI Panel Based Whiteboards

  James  21 mins read.

Panel Whiteboard Overview

Each table of participants in a system modeling heavy version of a Certified LeSS Practitioner course require far more whiteboard space than is typically available in a conference room. A variety of creative solutions exist for facilitating the required whiteboard space.

If WizardWall based whiteboards are not a viable solution, inexpensive dry-erase friendly panels available from your local lumberyard can be an excellent choice. As long as you purchase the correct panels, the writing surface will be far superior to what is possible with WizardWall.

The main downsides to panel based temporary whiteboards are:

  • additional logistical burden
  • less space efficient footprint

Each table of up to 5 participants will require two adjacent panels for a total of 16 linear feet of whiteboard space.

Photos

DPI Frost White #310

Figure 1: The DPI Frost White (#310) panels produced by Decorative Panels International are the best choice available in North America. They are most easily sourced via special order from Menard’s, Lowe’s, and Do It Best lumber yards. HomeDepot can source them as well, but doing so is tricky since they mostly sell Eucatex brand panels. Most any lumber yard will drop ship the panels and other items anywhere you want them. Alternatively, you can easily pick them up from the store if you have access to a standard cargo van or truck. Each table of participants will require two panels when placed across artists easels, and three panels when panels are leaned against a wall instead. DPI Thrifty White (#300) panels are also a viable frequently in-stock item if you don’t have time to wait on a special order.

Martin Torino Gigante Studio Easel

Figure 2: The use of taller folding aluminum artists easels makes it possible to avoid worrying about placing anything on or against a conference room wall. It generally takes two artists easels per panel (one on each end of the panel), along with a couple furring strips, and a few clamps.

Furring Strip Clamped to Panel

Figure 3: By themselves the panels are a bit too floppy. Clamping two inexpensive wooden boards along the long edge of each panel can solve this problem. Clamps are a faster solution than screws, which can be critical in making setup fast enough to avoid needing to pay for an extra day of space rental at a conference venue. This photo shows a furring strip clamped along the long edge of a smaller example panel. I don’t currently have a photo of the overall solution, yet this photo combined with previous photos will hopefully make it easier for you to imagine what the completed solution will look like.

1"x2"x8' Furring Strip

Figure 4: This is a photo of a 1”x2”x8’ furring strip. Furring strips are inexpensive low grade roughly finished lumber. Any similarly sized board should work well as a reinforcing rib.

Primed Pine Board

Figure 5: A primed board is smoother than a furring strip and less likely to snag people’s clothing or cause a splinter. This is a better choice for the reinforcing rib closest to the floor, since people are more likely to rub up against the lower rib.

Bessy Ratcheting Clamps

Figure 6: A stack of ratcheting clamps will make setup and tear-down faster than using traditional less expensive c-clamps. Home centers frequently have similar off-brand clamps at a much better price.

SKB 3i-4719-8 Case

Figure 7: With slight modification a huge stack of taller folding aluminum artist easels can be packed into a SKB 3i-4719-8 case. The SKB 3i-4719-8 is small enough to travel as checked airline luggage on most any airline in the globe. Within the United States, a case of easels can be cost effectively shipped via FedEx ground using https://www.lugless.com well in advance of any training need.

Pool Noodle

Figure 8: If you decide to lean the panels up against a wall instead of using artist easels, you will likely want to protect the wall upon which the panel is leaning. This can be done by cutting a length-wise slot along a pool noodle and placing it around the panel edge where it leans against the wall. Home centers frequently stock pool noodles, so you can buy them along with everything else.

Cargo Van

Figure 9: A standard height cargo van available from Enterprise Trucks can provide both transport and convenient overnight storage for any panels and other materials. This can be a useful way to avoid extraneous storage fees at a convention hotel. A standard height cargo van is low enough to fit in a standard parking garage. An Enterprise Truck rental is frequently a short Uber ride away from the airport..

Milwaukee M12 Cut-Off Tool

Figure 10: A small cordless circular saw will make quick work of demolishing any panels before placing them into a dumpster. The Milwaukee M12 Cut-Off Tool is one the smallest practical choices; actually a small circular saw in disguise. It weighs less than two pounds not counting batteries and charger. Any power saw can be extremely dangerous. Please wear appropriate personal protective equipment and follow appropriate safety procedures with any power saw.

Omni Barton Creek AB Photo

Omni Barton Creek AB Diagram

Figure 11 and 12: As you can see from this photo and layout of the Barton Creek AB meeting room in the Omni Barton Creek Austin, using easels instead of WizardWall consumes a great deal of floor space. Even after squeezing two participant tables down to only 12 linear feet of whiteboard space, it is just barely practical to support 30 participants in 1890 square feet of floor space. On the upside, all those lovely windows are nicer than a windowless cave of a WizardWall friendly meeting room.

Compared To Other Solutions

Advantages

  • Easily supported in any larger conference room anywhere in the world assuming appropriate panels can be identified.
  • Great writing surface
  • Avoids the need for dark windowless caves typical of WizardWall appropriate spaces
  • Can be assembled relatively quickly the morning of the first training day, thereby avoiding an additional day of space rental

Disadvantages

  • Consumes a great deal of floor space compared to WizardWall
  • Logistically challenging compared to WizardWall
  • The known good DPI panels are only available in North America
    • Good solutions surely exist in other markets, I just don’t know what they are yet.

Other Details

  • Comparable in cost to WizardWall within the United States ignoring the upfront investment in easels and shipping containers.
  • It is possible to use WizardWall on top of smooth panels without a dry-erase friendly surface. This is typically a relatively expensive option compared to buying panels which already have a dry-erase surface.
  • It is relatively straightforward to create site-built easels in less than day of effort. This is only practical with access to the event space a day in advance, and therefore not typically cost effective in rented space at a conference hotel.
  • The leaning panel design variation can be a very effective international alternative since it avoids the need for the expensive purchase or shipping of folding aluminum artists easels.

Conference Room Sizing

The conference room sizing concerns are almost the same as those for using WizardWall those for using WizardWall. The only difference is a little more floor space will often be required to account for the easels.

A full class of 30 participants, will potentially need as many as 13 panels. Two for each participant table, and one for the instructor. Assuming a 4 foot deep by 8 foot wide footprint for each panel, suggests an additional 416 square feet of floor space will be needed for the easels and panels.

In practice each room layout tends to be a little different. In some cases the extra space consumed by the easels won’t matter. That said, most hotel conference rooms are just big rectangular boxes in which the footprint of the easels can make a noticeable difference.

It worth remembering using panels sitting on self-standing artist easels opens up a huge number of training venues that would not be practical if only using WizardWall. This additional flexibility is often worth the floor space penalty incurred.

For example, with private training it could make sense to conduct off-site training at an upscale camp a few hours drive from the office. The building used for training might be built from rough timber and stone, and have a lovely covered patio with pleasant mountain views. WizardWall would never work in this situation, yet panels on easels likely still would.

Combine With Other Whiteboard Solutions

Consider using more floor space efficient WizardWall based temporary whiteboards where possible, and only using dry-erase panels on easels for the rest. This will help make setup and tear-down faster in time critical situations.

In a private training context using company event space, it is usually preferable to setup the training space a day or two ahead of the training event. In this situation, assuming WizardWall alone won’t work, it may be preferable to use dry-erase panels for all temporary whiteboards. The panels provide a better dry-erase surface, and are not significantly more expensive than WizardWall. If you have storage space for the panels, you can even store them afterwards for when you need them again. If you decide to adopt LeSS you are likely to frequently need a large amount of whiteboard space for effective multi-team refinement meetings anyway.

Ordering Links

DPI Dry-Erase Panels

Quantity Per Participant Table:

  • If using easels to support panels: 2
  • If leaning panels against the wall: 3

Usage:

  • Dry-erase whiteboard panel

Notes:

  • Use DPI Thrifty White (#300) for a short-lived panel.
  • Use DPI Frost White (#310) for a long-lived panel.
  • See Whiteboard Panels Sourcing Details section below more detail.

Sources:

See Whiteboard Panels Sourcing Details section below more detail.

Lumber: 1” x 2” x 8’ Furring Strip

Quantity Per Participant Table:

  • If using furring strips for all reinforcing ribs: 4
  • If only used for upper reinforcing rib: 2
  • If only using primed boards for reinforcing ribs: 0

Quantity Per Participant Panel:

  • If using furring strips for all reinforcing ribs: 2
  • If only used for upper reinforcing rib: 1
  • If only using primed boards for reinforcing ribs: 0

Usage:

  • Lumber For Reinforcing Ribs On Panel

Warning:

  • More likely to snag clothing and cause splinters than the primed pine board. This is less of an issue with the upper reinforcing rib.

Sources:

Lumber: 1” x 2” x 8’ Primed Pine Board

Quantity Per Participant Table:

  • If using primed boards for all reinforcing ribs: 4
  • If only used for upper reinforcing rib: 2
  • If only using furring strips for reinforcing ribs: 0

Quantity Per Participant Panel:

  • If using primed boards for all reinforcing ribs: 2
  • If only used for upper reinforcing rib: 1
  • If only using furring strips for reinforcing ribs: 0

Usage:

  • Lumber For Reinforcing Ribs On Panel

Important:

  • Less likely to snag clothing or cause splinters than a furring strip

Sources:

Screw: #8 x 1-1/4”

With dry-erase panels sitting on easels, clamping the reinforcing ribs in place will make setup and tear down much faster than using screws. Clamps also minimize the need for any tools during setup. The money saved by avoiding the need to reserve a hotel meeting room an extra day in advance easily pays for the additional cost of purchasing and then shipping a pile of clamps around the country in a Pelican case.

When setup time isn’t an issue, screws can make a lot more sense. They hold better, and cost a lot less. Screws are also more practical when leaning panels against a wall rather than using easels.

In both a leaning and easel setup, the reinforcing ribs should be positioned with the narrow edge of the board against the panel. This will provide the greatest rigidity orthogonal to the plane of the panel surface, and thereby best minimize flexing when writing on the panel.

If using panels with easels, the reinforcing ribs should be attached on the front surface of the panels along the long edges. This ensures the back of the panel will be properly supported by the easels. It also has the added advantage of the lower rib acting as a tray for the dry-erase markers.

If leaning panels against a wall, the reinforcing ribs should be attached on the back surface of the panels along the long edges.

It can still be helpful to have a few clamps to hold the ribs in position when preparing to screw them in place. A few clamps can also be used to clamp adjacent leaning panels together by clamping their adjacent reinforcing ribs together.

Screws Quantity Per Participant Table:

  • If using clamps rather than screws: 0
  • If using screws rather than clamps: 64

Screws Per Participant Panel: 32

  • If using clamps rather than screws: 0
  • If using screws rather than clamps: 32

Usage:

  • Screw: Using Easels: Through Back of Panel into Reinforcing Rib
    • Material Thickness: 1/8+1.5=0.125+1.5=1.625=1 5/8”
  • Screw: Leaning Panels: Through Front of Panel into Reinforcing Rib
    • Material Thickness: 1/8+1.5=0.125+1.5=1.625=1 5/8”

Sources:

Whiteboard Panels Sourcing Details

Panel Sourcing Overview

Identifying inexpensive appropriate melamine coated panels for use as whiteboards is tricky. The more cost effective panels are seldom labeled as dry-erase marker board panels. Furthermore, not all melamine coated panels make good dry-erase marker boards. These panels frequently require a custom order, which makes it difficult to examine an unfamiliar brand in a lumber yard before placing an order.

After lots of research I have discovered the panels manufactured by Decorative Panels International (DPI) are the best readily available known good choice within North America. I do not recommend using any other brand unless you are willing to spend time researching it.

Within the United States it is best to order from Menards, Lowe’s, or Do It Best. The DPI Thrifty White alternative Home Depot stocks is made by Eucatex, and does not have an appropriate dry-erase surface. It is very likely Eucatex produces a dry-erase friendly alternative to DPI Frost White available via special order, but I don’t yet know what it is. Home Depot stocks some DPI products, so they should be able to special order DPI Frost White if you need them to.

I believe Eucatex distributes to far more countries than DPI. If Eucatex manufactures a panel similar to DPI Frost White, it could be a good alternative for use outside of North America. As I learn of alternatives within other countries, I intend to update the reference information here.

DPI sells a small sample pack of their different panels for only a couple dollars as a way to help customers with product selection. I suspect Eucatex and others do the same. With enough lead time, ordering sample packs from multiple companies might be a good way to identify an alternative to the DPI panels.

DPI Contact Information

Website: https://www.decpanels.com/

Cindy Prahl

  • One of DPI’s Inside sales managers for Menards, the VMO for Lowe’s, and for Do It Best
  • Direct Line: 419-720-0953
  • Main DPI Number: 419-535-5921

Smooth Panel Board Webpage: https://www.decpanels.com/product/smooth-panel-board/

It is a very good idea to have this contact information available when speaking to the special order desk at your retailer. The special order desks have a mountain of product catalogues from a large number of suppliers. Being able to tell the special order clerk exactly what you want to order, and who to call if they are having trouble finding the item in their system, can help the special clerk better navigate their own labyrinth of back office systems.

DPI Retail Partners

  • United States
    • Menards
    • Lowe’s
    • Do It Best
    • The Home Depot
  • Canada
    • CANAC
    • Lowe’s
    • The Home Depot
    • RONA
  • Mexico
    • The Home Depot

WARNING: Ordering from Home Depot is likely to be challenging and is best avoided unless you don’t have another option.

Smooth Panels product numbers on DPI website are:

  • Thrifty White: 300 (4’x8’)
    • Cindy Prahl explains:
      • Will ghost over time. Not really a marker-board product.
      • Economical choice for a short-lived marker-board.
      • Frequently a stock item for retailers.
      • Size: 4’ x 8’
  • Frost White: 310
    • Cindy Prahl explains:
      • Proper marker-board surface with good longevity.
      • Higher quality than Thrifty White
      • Size: 4’ x 8’
  • Erasaboard: 3103248

More Nitty Gritty DPI Logistics Information

Thifty White (#300) is ok for a panel which will be destroyed after training is over. Frost White (#310) should be used for any dry-erase panel which will be used for a longer period of time.

When you have sufficient lead time, and if the retail price difference is negligible, I suggest ordering the good stuff even if you intend to destroy it. Odds are a few course participants will take a few panels home for their kids to draw on.

Cindy Prahl explains logistics:

  • Providing Cindy’s name and contact information to the order desk at a retailer will often be helpful when making a custom order. Cindy is the DPI representative who handles orders from most of the large U.S. retailers.
  • Menard’s and Do It Best typically contact Cindy directly.
  • Lowe’s has a VMO of some sort which slightly changes book-keeping and ordering details somehow, although Cindy is somehow still involved.
  • Most retailers depend on DPI’s regional distribution centers.
  • Do It Best retailers will typically have the shortest lead times for special orders.
  • Small retailers tend to maintain lower inventory levels for all their products. They usually make frequent small orders, rather than less frequent large orders. This increases how often a truck travels from the DPI distribution centers to these small retailers. This in turn shortens the end user lead time on any special orders. This is why a Do It Best retailer will typically be the fastest way to obtain a special order product from DPI.
  • Do It Best is a large buying group consisting of various private lumber yards and the like. The ability of a Do It Best retailer to deliver the last few miles to an event venue will vary based on the particular Do It Best retailer. I suspect any proper Do It Best lumberyard will have last mile delivery, while a Do It Best that is just a hardware store will not.

Conference Room Sizing

The table and lecture setup for a full class of 30 people typically requires around 1000 square feet for the classroom lecture area. A 1000 square foot room will not have enough WizardWall friendly wall sections of at least 13 feet for 30 people. To fit all the WizardWalls into a single conference room will typically require at least 2000 square feet of space. Obtaining enough flat contiguous wall space is generally the limiting factor on room size, rather than floor space.

Not all the WizardWalls need to be in the same space as the lecture space. A common solution is use a 1000 square foot room for the lecture space and a portion of the WizardWalls, and then to have a nearby breakout room of another 1000 square feet for additional WizardWalls. All things being equal, a single large room with enough space for everything is slightly better than using a breakout room.

During debriefing sessions the entire class cohort must be able to gather around each of the whiteboards. This should be considered when selecting any breakout room space. If you can draw a 20 foot arch in front of a whiteboard, there will typically be enough space for all 30 students to gather during a debrief.

In some private training contexts a few large flat walls in nearby hallways can sometimes be used for additional WizardWall space. This isn’t usually an option in a conference hotel situation.

It is important to remember food catering services typically need at least one table somewhere at the side or back of a training room. Keep this in mind when evaluating what wall surfaces will be appropriate for the WizardWalls.

Related Pages

Classroom Setup