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The Dreaded Shift Exchange

A shift exchange is when you have a production line running smoothly and you next team

of workers arrive to relieve your existing team and continue the flawless execution of


However, being staffed by human's certain traits will enter into the process … AKA the

SMED (Single Minute Exchange of Dies) profile.

Cleanliness is next to God so in the majority of cases during the last 30 to 60 minutes people

will want to start cleaning their work area which will include running out their line to make it

clean for the incoming team … this is wrong since they should be leaving the line “Wet”

If they feel that they need to do a big cleanup at the end of their shift they have not learned

the golden rule within McDonalds … if you have time to lean you have time to clean! All

processes are prone to micro stoppages or have some wait time engulphed within them

and these are opportunities to clean and sustain your work area.

As an operations practitioner the best time for me to be on the floor is 30 minutes before

shift end and then 30 minutes into the start of the next shift and typically what I hear is a

definitive silence.


The outgoing shift is busy cleaning and returning the work area back into an orderly


But why no action immediately from the incoming shift?

When interviewed I am typically told that the last shift left the area disorganized and they

have to spend time getting it back in order before they can commence production.

Herein lies 2 distinct situations ….

1) a lack of 5S … where everything has a place and

everything should be in its place. This does not necessarily mean it is in the perfect place

… but in a location known to the employees who can quickly modify it to meet their own

work process. And …

2) adjust the mood of the employee. Typically, your employee arrives wanting to do a good job filled with energy but now they have to adjust the work area zapping them of their energy and likely placing them in a bad mood.

An employee with a bad mood will promote marginal quality within the process and marginal quality will result in poor productivity.

We all like productive employees in a good mood …

So how do we get there?

You need to define a baseline within the work area. Assign locations for all of the tools, jigs and fixtures and make sure they are stored in the proper location through the use of shadow boards. I am also a big fan of "Talking Floors" where you have locations assigned for the storage of Raw Materials, WIP and Finished Goods.

Indeed, your team members will then adjust the locations during the shift to suit and support their style, but it is important that everything is returned to "baseline". The Baseline becomes a known situation and thus stifles resentment towards other shifts and will also enable the Team Member to get into productive mode faster.

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