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LinkedIn Experts Debate: Outdated Whiteboards and Effective Production Meetings in Manufacturing

It’s time for another LinkedIn video summary that analyzes the LinkedIn post(s) made by Mingo CEO, Bryan Sapot. But in this post, we’re focusing on a combination of two topics – whiteboards and production meetings. To give yourself a bit of background, watch the videos below before reading the blog.

Whiteboard LinkedIn Post: https://www.linkedin.com/posts/bryansapot_manufacturing-manufacturingsoftware-activity-6679369057373843456-occ5

Production Meeting LinkedIn Post: https://www.linkedin.com/posts/bryansapot_manufacturing-lean-activity-6681167606667370497-u_t3

Now, we all know whiteboards are a great start in organizing the factory floor, but at the end of the day, there’s a more lean approach that can be taken.

On that particular video post, there were two great comments that essentially summed up our thoughts.

The production meeting video, on the other hand, garnered much more interest. The best run manufacturing companies have daily production meetings that much we know. But what we wanted to know was, “What are the best practices around these meetings?” We asked the LinkedIn community to tell us about their production meetings, the good and the bad. How long are they? What is the structure? Who is invited? What data are you looking at? Where do you hold the meeting?

The response was surprising. This is apparently a frequent topic of discussion, but the thing that was most surprising is that everyone agreed with the points made. So, if you take nothing else away from this post, take the insights given and apply those to your own production meetings.

And now, let’s look at a few (in our opinion) of the best comments. (And if you’d like to be featured in an upcoming post, engage with Bryan’s next video or post.)

Part 1: Using Whiteboards on the Floor

Q. Let’s talk about whiteboards on the production floor. Why is it like driving while looking in the rearview mirror? (Big thanks to Nate for the phrase inspiration!)

A. Well, the thing that sucks about whiteboards is the fact that they’re not immediate and not in real-time. Someone has to update it and someone has to stand in front of it to see what’s happening. If you’re the supervisor, are you going to walk around the floor and only stare at the whiteboard? Is that a good use of your time?

Don’t get me wrong, whiteboards are great, to begin with. They can create discipline and a little bit of visibility. It gives the person compiling the data better insights. But, those benefits eventually become too old school. Whiteboards are static. Whiteboards have many limitations. From that perspective, they just suck.

If you have a real-time system, you know immediately when something is going haywire. If a tool breaks, you will know seconds later, giving you and your team the ability to go, figure out what’s wrong, and fix the problem. Think about what you could do with an alert or a downtime notification directly to your phone. You can immediately walk over and ask what happened. Is it an anomaly or the second time that tool has broken today? In that case, you think “Oh shit, that’s bad.”, but with a dynamic, real-time system, you’re given the tools to fix it and move forward.

That’s kind of the issue with whiteboards. They’re very easy to erase, and if that’s what does happen, the data is completely gone unless there happens to be a paper backup. The whole process goes back to the idea that reporting on whiteboards and paper is not lean.

There’s just so much wasted effort. Everything associated with the manual process of filling out a whiteboard, collecting the data, summarizing the data, it’s all non-value-added processes.

Think of it this way. Do the benefits of having a whiteboard outweigh the fact that you constantly have people walking back and forth writing down the data every hour? Probably not.

Part 2: Daily Production Meetings 

Q. If there’s nothing to report in a meeting, why is it important to say that? Should companies encourage that level of honesty?

If you really have nothing to report, you should say that or simply say, “Everything ran fine.” You don’t need to give every detail because otherwise, it’s just wasting time. Which defeats the purpose of quick, daily production reporting.

The idea is to feel comfortable with not justifying your existence. When you say you have nothing to report, your boss should know everything went fine yesterday.

But this does boil down to something that should be a part of the culture of the company. A lot of it equates to trust, right? At the end of the day, it’s the job of the employee to do what they say they’re going to do. And that all leads back to supportive company culture.

However, to be a bit of devil’s advocate, there should be times employees are recognized for a job well done. In the LinkedIn post, there were a few comments mentioned that if everything is status quo, it shouldn’t be talked about in the production meeting. But if something is really good or has been good for a long time, it should be recognized in front of the team.

Those kinds of interactions, words of encouragement, and praise matter. They go a long way. And in the end, that kind of culture encourages employee engagement and contributes to a better employee experience.

Q. What is the main goal of a daily production meeting? Do you agree with scheduling these meetings for only 15 minutes?

A. I do agree. I think what everyone laid out is great. These production meetings are all about what went right, what went wrong, what are we going to do about it, planning for today, and doing it in 15 minutes. That’s really it.

One of the great things Nate and Leanscape mentioned was the idea of tiered meetings. Both point out that there are different levels of meetings and different people at those meetings. That is especially helpful in getting things done because then you know you have the right people involved for each project. The focus is there.

To that same point, Plethora brought up the idea of including a sales representative in the meeting. While I don’t believe this applies to the daily production meeting, including the VP of Sales in a meeting with the Operations Executive could be incredibly beneficial. That’s where you could talk about capacity and delivering on time to customers, effectively cementing the bond between the front office and production.

But I really can’t say enough how great Leanscape’s Medium post was. Go read it. I think that’s the framework that works really, really well. And the idea that production meetings should be no longer than 15 minutes and include new ideas, well that is key, too.

Really, there were so many exceptional comments about how best to structure these meetings, and all of the points made were great.

Q. Should manufacturers focus on the exceptions?

A. Another comment that I really like was Rick Bullotta‘s about focusing on what really has to be accomplished today and the exceptions.

The idea of talking about what went wrong and what was weird, especially if you have an ongoing problem, is exactly what I stress Mingo can help with. If something that happened yesterday was odd like a tool broke that shouldn’t or a bunch of product was scrapped, and both are unusual problems, you should note it for review. Maybe you don’t throw all of your resources at the problem in the beginning, but if this happens 2 or 3 days in a row, that’s a big problem. There may be something wrong with the machine, the tool, or the operator’s performance. 

In that case, you need to focus on those exceptions and the “must accomplish” tasks.

Keeping track of these things is important. But how do you track all of this stuff? How do you track if something is a 1-time anomaly or an ongoing concern? Can you do all of this on whiteboards?

Following that idea is exactly what I did for my next LinkedIn video – how do you track those lists of actions or issues discussed in the production meeting?

Picture of Bryan Sapot
Bryan Sapot
Bryan Sapot is a lifelong entrepreneur, speaker, CEO, and founder of Mingo. With more than 24 years of experience in manufacturing technology, Bryan is known for his deep manufacturing industry insights. Throughout his career, he’s built products and started companies that leveraged technology to solve problems to make the lives of manufacturers easier. Follow Bryan on LinkedIn here.