Are your maintenance meetings a source of waste?

From the Lean Maintenance Course
As appeared in IMPACT

For maintenance departments waste comes in many forms: underutilized equipment, system failures, downtime, excess inventory, not having the right parts available. Another form of waste that is not always recognized is meetings. When not run properly, meetings can reduce productivity by taking up valuable time that could be used for working on maintenance tasks.

According to the book “10 Minutes a Week to Great Meetings” many meetings are wasteful because there is no pre-established agenda, people are unclear of their role in the meeting, specific action items are not set and participants come unprepared.

Using Lean principles and meeting best practices your maintenance meetings can be productive, meaningful and valuable to the organization. So, how can Lean be applied to meetings? Lean targets inefficiencies and the underutilization of people. Organizations should find the easiest waste to eliminate and eliminate it. Inefficient maintenance meetings are an easy place to start.

Think back to your last maintenance meeting. Did you see any of these symptoms?

  • Meetings rambling on without a clear purpose or objective
  • People doing their own thing during the meeting – checking email, texting, having side conversations
  • People showing up unprepared
  • Participants coming in late or leaving early
  • Decisions are not made or are not clear at the end of the meeting
  • Meetings dominated by a few talkers
  • People leave feeling frustrated or angry

If so, it may be time to revamp your meetings to make them more efficient and valuable. To eliminate waste in your maintenance meetings you first need to determine where the problems are. Creating an assessment can be a quick way to gain some immediate feedback on how others perceived the meeting. Take action on the feedback received to positively impact the effectiveness of your meetings. Start with the easiest to achieve first. Remember, in Lean you want to start with the easiest waste to eliminate and eliminate it.

Here are some steps you can take to maximize the productivity of your meetings.

  1. Determine if the meeting is even necessary in the first place. Can you achieve the same goal in a conference call or email?
  2. Set ground rules for the meeting. These may include rules like
    a.)  Starting and ending the meeting on time
    b.)  Leaving job titles and bureaucracy at the door
    c.)  Avoiding side bar discussions
    d.)  Staying focused on the topic
  3. Ensure people know their role in the meeting
  4. Have someone keep meeting minutes. Have you ever gotten to the end of meeting and realized no one was taking notes on the ideas and action items presented? Oops!
  5. Establish a meeting agenda and stick to it

In maintenance operations time is money. The more time personnel are spending in meetings means the less time they are dedicating to ensuring the critical equipment is properly maintained. Consider the cost of the people involved in the meeting. Factor in their salaries plus their overhead costs, multiplied by how long they were in the meeting. Are there consultants or subcontractors present who are being paid for attending the meeting? Also consider the cost of having these people tied up in a meeting rather than completing maintenance tasks. The meeting is suddenly a very costly source of waste.

Meetings are often necessary and can be a very productive way to work on projects, share ideas, communicate information and make decisions. Make sure they are worth the investment of everyone’s time by following best practices for meetings that line up with lean principles.

© Life Cycle Engineering, Inc.

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