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The case of the unchecked checklist

Video-The case of the unchecked checklist

Mary stopped by to see me. She had a problem. It seems like an occupational hazard. Nobody ever seems to stop by just to have a cuppa and swap sea stories.

"I am a big believer in checklists," Mary told me. "My team and I have spent a lot of time developing checklists for changeover, preventive maintenance and common repairs. I can't get my mechanics to use them and then they forget to do things. Any thoughts?"

I gave her a cup of coffee anyway. "I understand the problem, Mary. Your mechanics, and other technicians, are skilled at what they do. They see checklists as sort of an insult. Why would an expert need instructions? It is a culture problem."

"I know that, KC. What can I do about it?"

"Fiddlesticks on unchecked checklists. Dr. Atul Gawunde at Harvard had the same problems in operating rooms that you have in the plant. You should get copies of “The Checklist Manifesto” and get them to read it. If they are not readers, there are a number of videos by him, long and short, on YouTube explaining his thinking on why checklists are critical in OR's, aviation and other industries.

"Also tell them the story of Jeffrey Skiles, co-pilot on USAir-1549. As they were on an unpowered glide path from Laguardia to the Hudson river, the first thing Skiles did was pull out a paper checklist for emergency engine restart. He managed to get through it twice before the water landing.

“If it is good enough for him, it is good enough for your team.”

Known as the Changeover Wizard, John R. Henry is the owner of, a consulting firm that helps companies find and fix the causes of inefficiencies in their packaging operations. He has written the book, literally, on packaging machinery ( and is the face and personality behind packaging detective KC Boxbottom, the main character in Adventures in Packaging, a popular blog on


See a host of new ideas in packaging machinery, materials and more at WestPack 2016, Feb. 9-11 in Anaheim, CA.


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