Much like a relay race when one runner hands the baton to the next runner, sanitation should have a smooth hand-off to maintenance and maintenance should have a smooth hand-off to production. The only way to make this kind of smooth transition consistent is to make it a formal process and to practice it every day.

Without a doubt, maintenance’s role in the shift start-up of the plant can make or break the day’s production . This is why it is so critical to have the proper procedures in place and to follow them every day. Production time lost at any point throughout the day is a lost opportunity, but production lost at start-up, regardless of the reason, puts production behind the eight ball from the get-go. It sets a tone of “we’ll never get caught up now – thanks to maintenance,” a mindset that can cripple a day’s production.

Once sanitation is complete and the quality-assurance department has released the area after its QA checks (and when applicable, USDA has released the area after its pre-op inspection), then it is the maintenance department that must swoop in to begin reassembling the equipment. They must not simply reassemble, but they should be reassembling to exact specifications to ensure the equipment performs from the moment product begins entering the process.

Start-up work order

This kind of world-class performance is created by making sure each mechanic has documented instruction in the form of a “start-up work order.” It is vital to define and ensure there is an across-the-board understanding of a start-up work order. Start-up work orders outline exactly what activities a mechanic must perform in order to put all the equipment back together.

Start-up work orders can be handled a couple of different ways. In facilities where there are a number of highly complex pieces of equipment, it is usually best handled by creating start-up work orders for each piece of equipment. In other instances, one start-up work order may be established, which will outline a list of activities to be performed for all the equipment a mechanic is responsible for setting up.

Regardless of the method used, the process to establish these work orders consists of the same steps. First, identify which pieces of equipment need to be reassembled. It is important to establish this list because not all equipment requires a mechanic to reassemble it. In some instances, simple things like replacing guards can be accomplished by sanitation or production crews, freeing maintenance workers to handle more complex activities like reassembling conveyors or ensuring accurate weights by reassembling and calibrating scales. Also, whether or not production will actually use the equipment for that day’s production will play into the generation of startup work orders, as will the sanitation crews’ cleaning schedule (i.e., some equipment may only be cleaned periodically, not daily).

Next, identify the steps required to reassemble the equipment. It is critical to clearly define who is responsible for what. There are factors like creating a central location for sanitation to put parts after cleaning them (there needs to be a standard location for the parts, so they can be easily found by maintenance); and who is responsible for what during the reassembly. For instance, it might be critical for maintenance to put together a batter breader after sanitation, but production should be responsible for setting the RPMs of the drum breader or the conveyor belts, as they will know what the proper speed setting is for the product they will run.

Third, times ought to be associated with each start-up work order. This way when the maintenance planner, manager or supervisor is distributing the work orders at shift start-up, they can more precisely allocate the work assigned to each mechanic. While these are largely repetitive, there are occasions when people call in sick or are on vacation and their start-up work orders will have to be distributed to other mechanics.

Finally, exact specifications must be included on the start-up work orders. That means the start-up work order should include the torque setting when assembling grinders and these settings should not only be on the work order, but the mechanic should be required to fill in the blank with the actual setting. This is done for a number of reasons including creating a paper trail in case there are any safety issues later, as well as ensuring you have proper documentation for equipment warranties.

Create a formal process

Again, the shift hand-off needs to have a formal process, so there needs to be a formal check sheet with a place for sanitation to sign an order to hand off to maintenance and maintenance a place to sign to hand off to production. Each of these signatures ensures a personal responsibility and accountability for later machine and department performance. Much like a relay race, the sign-off sheet acts like the baton.

Creating and practicing this formal start-up procedure every day will make for a speedy cross of the finish line. Happy racing!

Mark Eystad is the President of Mark 1045, Inc. (, Marietta, GA. Eystad has installed Continuous Improvement Processes in Production and Maintenance operations in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.