The Power Of Checklists

Checklists serve the dual purpose of reminding machine operators to do things and ensuring that these things get done. Machine change-overs, machine maintenance, documentation and cleanup are a couple examples of the different types of checklists common to a job shop.


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It always amazes me how powerful simple things can be. Consider a checklist. In its simplest form, a checklist is a series of actions that need to be taken, typically in a predetermined sequence. In use, the checklist requires
some level of interaction. The user must read, understand and complete the action and then acknowledge its completion, either by adding some type of mark or recording information on the checklist.
Checklists are used extensively throughout organizations and serve the dual purpose of reminding us to do things and ensuring that things are done. Many of us praise the power of the checklist as a means of preventing things from “falling through the cracks.”
There are numerous areas in which checklists can be put to good use. Here are just a few applications you may want to consider to make life a little less hectic.
• Machine Change-Over Checklist. This is one of the most common types of checklist I have encountered. It is simply a series of actions that needs to be taken before a change-over begins, but in some cases, the actions occur after the change-over process has started. Examples from this list can include ensuring material availability; checking tool availability and condition; and ensuring that all documentation is up-to-date.
Companies have found such a checklist useful, for example, when a change-over runs across multiple shifts or when different people are involved in a change-over. It is not meant to provide detailed instructions for how to complete a change-over, but rather a reminder of what needs to be done and when it should happen. This checklist is a means of ensuring advanced preparation, which can reduce interruptions and delays during the change-over process.
• Machine Maintenance Checklist. More companies are trying to involve machine operators in the machine maintenance process as part of a Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) program. The idea is not to make the operators experts in machine repair, but to make them more “machine knowledgeable.” To this end, operators are performing routine start-up tasks, such as checking fluid levels, filters, gage readings and so forth. This checklist reminds operators of what needs to be checked and what the proper operating conditions should be.
The machine maintenance checklist should be structured so that the operator has to walk around the machine only once, checking each item along the way. It should also be developed so that the operator can check-off or circle readings and conditions, as opposed to writing lengthy evaluations. The goal is to obtain useable information about the condition of the machine in 5 minutes or less.
• Documentation Checklists. Typically completed by an organization’s technical or administrative personnel, documentation checklists are helpful in ensuring that all required documents are prepared (or gathered) and put into appropriate files or job packets for use by manufacturing personnel. Routing sheets, job specs, prints, inspection forms, customer information and others are examples of items that can be listed on a documentation checklist. These are the types of things that often are missing when parts need to be manufactured. Similar to the other checklists, the documentation checklist reduces the likelihood of delays resulting from missing, inaccurate or incomplete information.
• Cleanup Checklist. This is one of the simplest checklists, yet it can be one of the most powerful. The cleanup checklist helps keep work areas clean, safe, neat and organized. The typical checklist includes activities that need to be completed daily as well as those that can be completed less frequently. For example, the checklist may include sweeping the floor and cleaning workbenches daily as well as checking the condition of hand tools and quantity of critical supply items weekly. Checking air-cleaner filters and cleaning walls and windows can be listed as a monthly activity. Assigning employees to specific steps on the checklist will make it even more helpful, as everyone knows what they are supposed to do and when they are supposed to do it.
These checklists are just some of the useful tools that will help your employees transition from remembering what needs to be done to doing what needs to be done each and every day.