Home > Lean Tools > The 9th waste - Meetings

The 9th waste - Meetings

Jason Van Wyhe Dec 14, 2020

Society has taught that putting in a hard days work is what makes us successful and keeps our economy going. Most people work an 8 hr shift, and many bosses assume they are getting 8 hrs worth of work. But is that realistic? How many hours do your workers actually earn in an 8 hour shift? The answers may surprise you.


Here is a common work day for many worker:

  • punch in, goes to work area. There is a 10 minute tool box talk for safety and production issues, and to get information passed from the previous shift

  • They work for 3 hours, then go on a 10 minute break

  • They work another 2 hours, then take a 15 minute lunch

  • Again, they work for a while, then take another 10 minute break.

  • At the end of the shift, there is a 5 minute clean up period.

On a weekly basis, they have:

  • Once a week, there is an hour long general information and safety meeting

  • Once every two weeks there is a 1 hour safety training of some sort

  • Once a month there is some sort of work instruction or lean training for half a day.

Guess what, on average your work day is now down to 6.67 hours every day. Think this is unrealistic? Think again. Of the last 20 organizations I have observed, the average work day was 6.6 hours, with a high of 7.15 and a low of 4.83 (that's not a typo).

Worse, all these interruptions adversely effect efficiency by stopping and starting work, and taking people away from their work stations. We put in auto cribs to dispense PPE and common parts to keep people from walking up to a tool crib, yet think nothing of having them walk around a plant going to and from meetings.

Meetings ARE a waste. Period. Every second lost in them is a second of opportunity lost. Some are absolutely necessary, yet many are not. Here are some things you should consider before holding a meeting, and some tips to improve it productivity and remove waste:


One critical question to ask any time you want to get the whole group together - Am I willing to pay overtime to get this message in front of my employees? I've asked this question to many a plant manager and division vice president, and usually the answer is "We won't pay overtime for people to sit in a meeting". My response is "You probably already are."

Meetings take away from the available hours you have to work. How is that time usually made up? Overtime. So you will be paying time and a half to get your message across. Think about that carefully before you choose to hold a meeting.


Is the meeting necessary? What value do they add to the organization today? Safety or quality stand downs are important, but are general HR announcements? Will the workers get anything out of it, or will they simply treat it as another break.

Is the Whole Group required?

I have chastised many safety and quality managers for calling a general meeting, only to find out only a part of the group was required for the training. Understand who needs the information and involve only those people.

Also, it may be in the best interest of the plant to hold multiple sessions to allow part of the plant to continue to work while the other workers are in meetings. This is particularly true of constraint operations. Often this is not done because it is easier for the managers holding the meeting to have fewer sessions. Wrong answers. Your shop floor employees are the ones making you money. You and your managers are an expense. Act accordingly.

Can The Message Be Delivered in Another Manner?

It is 2020 as of the writing of this article, yet many do not take advantage of the technology available today. Simple verbal communication is only one of many medium available today to get your message out. Many alternative options not only are effective at conveying your message, but also help you connect with younger workers. Options include:

  • Social media posts

  • Text message alerts

  • Email

  • Lunch room fliers

  • Information on close circuit TV screens

Critical Few Points

Often the topic covered is absolutely necessary, but that does not give your leadership team carte blanch to ramble on and on just to hear their own voice. Keep the message short, concise, and have a set itinerary. A long convoluted message will soon lose its effectiveness as peoples attention wanes.

Limit Questions During The Meeting

While we love to be interactive with our employees, question and answer sessions often devolve into complaint sessions on topics completely unrelated to your message. Some crafty employees will continue to ask questions simply to expand the length of the meeting. Keep the questions down to a handful, but have your staff available after the meeting to answer legitimate concerns from workers.


In my experience, 10% of all time lost is meeting is people not being on-time. Set the expectation that workers be on-time or be held accountable. On the flip side, the staff and plant manager also need to hold themselves accountable as they are often the worst offenders.

Choose meeting times around breaks

Have your meeting start near after a break is done, or end with break occurs. You can also do this at the beginning or end of shifts. This is cut the time lost due to walking (and socializing) to and from the meeting in half. It will also discipline your staff to get their message done in a tight time window.

Go To Them

Often, we force our workforce to come to a meeting room for the meeting. They walk and socialize all the way up to the area, and do the same on the way back. If possible, hold your meetings in their work area. This reduces the time lost in transit, and often is more effective as points may be demonstrated in their actual work environment.


Meeting is another form of waste, just like the 8 wastes outlined in the downtime acronym. If you look carefully at your organization, you can probably find many others, including unnecessary paperwork and internal regulations.


lean, waste, meeting, safety

Jason Van Wyhe

Jason Van Wyhe has over 22 year management experience in variety of job shop environments ranging from Fortune 500 corporations down to local machine shops. He is a student of continuous improvement and developing innovative ways of eliminating waste.

Want to learn more about implementing lean and continuous improvement in a job shop environment?  You've come to the right place.  Job Shop Lean Manufacturing is dedicated to implementing continuous improvement in a job shop environment... READ ABOUT US


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