Myriad tools have been developed to aid collaboration of team members that are geographically separated. Temporally separated teams receive much less attention, despite this type of collaboration being paramount for success in many operations.
To achieve performance continuity in multi-shift operations, an effective pass-down process is required. Software is available to facilitate pass-down, but is not required for an effective process. The lowest-tech tools are often the best choices. A structured approach is the key to success – one that encourages participation, organization, and consistent execution.
The topic of participation in pass-down encompasses three elements that must be defined and monitored: the groups that need to participate, whom will represent that group in pass-down activities, and the types of activity required.
There are various groups present in any organization. Some are common participants in pass-down activities; others are often overlooked in this process. Several are presented below, with examples of topics that each may discuss during pass-down.
Operations: The operations group should share any information related to their ability to meet production expectations.
Depending on the size of the organization and the specific activities in which it engages, the groups mentioned may or may not be separate entities. The example topics, however, remain valid regardless of the roles or titles of the individuals participating in the information exchange. Likewise, there is significant overlap in the information needs of these groups. For example, engineering and quality routinely work together to design and conduct experiments and collect data. The maintenance group may make adjustments to a process to support an experiment, while the operations group runs the equipment. If a third-party contractor is needed, notifying security in advance could accelerate the contractor’s access to the facility, keeping the experiment on schedule.
Each group conducting a pass-down may have a single representative that compiles and exchanges information; there could also be multiple members of any group participating. The appropriate representation depends on the number of topics to be discussed and each member’s knowledge of them. In general, additional participants are preferable to incomplete information.
The activity of each participant is prescribed by the process chosen or required by circumstances. In-person discussions are often the most effective; each participant has the opportunity to ask questions, get clarifications, and discuss alternatives. Face-to-face meetings should be supported by documentation for future reference. Also, when in-person discussions cannot be held (i.e. non-overlapping shifts), the documentation, on its own, serves as the pass-down. For this reason, providing coherent written pass-downs is a critical habit that all team members must form.
The form of pass-down used defines the general activity requirements. The example topics, provided above for several groups, allude to some specific activities that may be required of participants. Further specific tasks are defined by the way in which pass-down information is organized, collected, and shared. This is our next topic.
There are multiple facets to the organization of an effective pass-down process. The organization of people was discussed in “Participation,” above. Next is the organization of information on the written pass-down reports. Formatted report templates are useful for this purpose. A template ensures that no category of relevant information is overlooked; each has a designated space for recording. Omission of any information type deemed necessary will be immediately obvious; the writer can be prompted to complete the form before details fade from memory.
As mentioned in the introduction, software can be used to facilitate this process, but the form need not be digital – at least not at first. Hand-written forms should be scanned and archived for use when an historical record is needed. A whiteboard could be used for short-term notes; the board can be erased and reused once the information has been recorded in the permanent pass-down record.
Whatever “tools” your organization chooses to use, keep the pass-down process as straightforward as possible. The simpler to understand and the easier to use the better. Less required training and more understanding result in wider use and greater value to the organization.
When overlapping shifts permit in-person communication, the pass-down should be treated as any other meeting – an agenda, a schedule, and required attendance should be defined. See “Meetings: Now Available in Productive Format!” for additional guidance.
Pass-down may be conducted by each department or function separately; however, overlapping information needs behoove an organization to consider alternative attendance schemes. Conducting pass-down per production line, or value stream, is a common example. All of the groups that support operations on that production line – maintenance, quality, engineering, logistics, etc. – share information with all others simultaneously. This is an efficient method to ensure that the information required to effectively support operations has been provided to those who need it.
The greater the number of groups conducting pass-down activities within an organization, the more difficult it is to execute consistently. Some elements of consistent execution have been discussed, such as a preformatted report, meeting agenda, and required attendance. To ensure that consistency, once attained, is maintained, higher-level managers should audit – or attend regularly – as many pass-down meetings as possible. Other members should also audit meetings they do not regularly attend. Auditing other meetings facilitates the comparison of differing techniques, or styles, in pursuit of best practices. All groups should be trained to use the best practices, restoring consistent execution.
Pass-down meetings are also opportunities for “micro-training” or reminders on important topics. Examples include safety tips (e.g. proper use of PPE, slip/fall prevention), reminders to maintain 5S and to be on the lookout for “lean wastes.” This time could also be used for a brief description of a new policy, review of financial performance, or to introduce new team members.
Micro-training may not be an obvious component of pass-down procedures, but it is helpful in encouraging consistency in many practices. It is an excellent opportunity to highlight safety, teamwork, and other topics that are important to the group. Achieving consistency in other activities, in turn, reinforces consistent execution of pass-down activities.
Effective pass-down is an essential practice that is often neglected and allowed to disintegrate. It does not capture headlines and it’s not glamorous; celebrities do not make public service announcements about it. It does not require high-tech tools or billionaire investors to bring it to fruition. Too often, the latest technology, social media platform, or other high-profile whiz-bang distracts leaders and managers from the things that are truly relevant to the performance of an organization. Solid fundamentals, fanatically cultivated and relentlessly developed, pave the way to organizational success; losing sight of them can be disastrous. Effective pass-down is one of these fundamentals.
For assistance with establishing a robust pass-down process, repairing a broken, neglected system, or solidifying other fundamental practices, contact JayWink Solutions for a consultation.
[Link] “A Critical Shift: How Adding Structure Can Make Shift Handovers More Effective.” Tom Plocher, Jason Laberge, and Brian Thompson; Automation.com, March 2012.
[Link] “Pass the shift baton effectively.” Paul Borders; Plant Services, April 18, 2017.
[Link] “7 Strategies for Successful Shift Interchange.” Maun-Lemke, LLC, 2006.
[Link] “Reducing error and influencing behavior.” UK Health and Safety Executive, 1999.
Jody W. Phelps, MSc, PMP®, MBA
JayWink Solutions, LLC
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