Morning meetings: Maintenance planning and scheduling

Christer Idhammar, IDCON INC

All over the world, most plants have morning meetings. As a consultant, I have been asked to sit in on many of these meetings, and my conclusion from these experiences is that most of them are not very effective or meaningful to the attendees.

First of all, the focus of the meetings is often on past events. For example, each department reports what happened yesterday, and very little time is spent on today's plans. In addition, even less time is spent on activities that must take place tomorrow and beyond.

The worst-case scenario

Let me tell you a little about the least effective meetings I have attended by describing a generic case. At this meeting, the room is noisy, people have to stand up because there is no place to sit, and there are no visual aids such as an overhead projector, flip charts or a white board.

In addition, the leader of the meeting does not lead the meeting at all and often speaks with a low voice, making it impossible to hear. Attendees receive the latest production report and are asked – one by one – to read the part for which they are responsible. At this point, it is common to see that people do not listen to parts of the production report that do not directly apply to them. In addition, when they read their own parts, others do not listen to them either.

In the very worst scenarios, maintenance craftspeople do not start working in the morning until they have talked with their supervisor. This often causes a delay in work because the supervisor attends the morning meeting at 8 a.m., while the crew arrives at 7 a.m. The crew has learned, from long experience, that job schedules and work assignments are frequently changed as a result of the morning meeting. Therefore, they wait until the supervisor comes back from the morning meeting around 8:30 a.m. to begin work for the day.

Creating more effective meetings

To improve the effectiveness of your plant’s morning meetings, I propose that you ask yourselves some of the following basic questions:

  • Why do I attend the meeting?
  • Do I attend because our plant has always had those meetings every day at 8 a.m.?
  • Do I attend because this is the most efficient way for the organization to receive information about what happened last night?
  • What do other attendees expect from me, and what do I expect from them?
  • Is there a way I can improve communication at these meetings? For example, could I prepare my part of the presentation with charts and other visual aids and hope that others follow the example?
  • Do we need to have these meetings every day, or would it be enough to have them on Mondays and Fridays?
  • Do we need to have these meetings in the morning, or could we move it to mid-day and then focus on tomorrow's activities?

Effective meeting characteristics

Some very effective meetings I have attended share some of the following characteristics:

  • The leader leads the meeting, and he or she can be distinctly heard throughout the entire room.
  • The meeting starts on time and ends on time.
  • Visual aids are used, and only information meaningful to the majority of the attendees is presented. Especially effective meetings present all their information using Power Point or other presentation software projected on a large screen.
  • The meeting focuses on communicating important information, describing recent results and defining problems that must be solved.
  • Each meeting includes a three- to five-minute teaching/discussion break.

No meetings?

Personally, I believe it is good to have meetings if they are productive, and it is a given that attendees must include operations and maintenance people at a minimum. If the purpose of your meetings is to spread information, you can sometimes accomplish this using internal televisions and computer networks. With those capabilities, you can possibly have fewer meetings.

Torbjörn (Tor) Idhammar is partner and vice president of reliability and maintenance management consultants for IDCON Inc. His primary responsibilities include training and implementation support for preventive maintenance/essential care and condition monitoring, planning and scheduling, spare parts management, and root cause problem elimination. He is the author of “Condition Monitoring Standards” (volumes 1 through 3). He earned a BS in industrial engineering from North Carolina State University and an MS in mechanical engineering from Lund University (Sweden). Contact Tor at 800-849-2041 or e-mail info@idcon.com.
Management Consultants in Reliability and Maintenance – IDCON

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About the Author

Christer Idhammar is president of IDCONInc., a Raleigh, N.C.-based reliability and maintenance management consulting firm which specializes in education, tra...