Communication Breakdowns Between Shifts – Solving Problems 24 Hours a Day

When receiving a repair into the service center, sometimes the amount of information we are given is detailed with timelines, failure modes and fault codes. But most of the time what we get is very vague despite the repair being part of a critical machine down situation. What is the reason for this? Sometimes it is disorganization. Other times lack of proper data gathering by the maintenance personnel, but another overlooked issue is the lack of communication between shifts in the case where the plant is a twenty-four hour a day operation.

The Problem

In grade school there was a popular game we played called telephone. It worked like this: all the kids would form a large circle and starting with the first child, each would whisper a message in the ear of the person to their right. Each time the message was delivered, it would become distorted or change. By the time the message arrived at the last kid in the chain the original meaning was completely lost. A similar thing can happen when multiple shifts are involved in solving a machine down problem. The machine operator reports the problem to maintenance, who then works on the problem for a time, then hands the problem of to the next crew, who then (depending on the circumstance) hands the problem off to the tool crib, who finally hands the problem off to the repair center. During this chain loads of information can be lost or misunderstood. Especially during a shift change.

Overlap Your Shifts

One possible solution and a good idea in general, is to overlap the shifts slightly even if it is only say thirty minutes or so. Dedicate this time to meetings and strategy between maintenance crews, machine operators and management. This way the repair work can be properly coordinated and the problem correctly diagnosed. Make sure all involved keep records of any changes made or observations during shifts so that the next incoming crew will have the knowledge they need to confront the problem.

Avoid Laying Blame

In any group of employees, no one wants to take credit for a failure. Make sure the team is working as a whole and not placing blame, also what must be avoided is an “us versus them” attitude between shift groups. You may pick up on negative statements such as “this kind of thing only happens on second shift.” or “the first shift guys are always breaking things.” While if there is a causal pattern of failure during a shift, it is something to be investigated, this kind of atmosphere is not conducive to solving problems if untrue and can lead to false conclusions regarding equipment failures.

IF you have a repair problem on any shift give us a call! Be sure to visit us online at or call us at 1-877-249-1701 to learn more about our services. We’re proud to offer Surplus, Complete Repair and Maintenance on all types of Industrial Electronics, Servo Motors, AC and DC Motors, Hydraulics and Pneumatics. Please subscribe to our YouTube page and Like Us on Facebook! Thank you!

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