Many businesses have told us recently that their Gemba Walks have fallen behind and need restarting. In some cases, we have been told this has been the result of management teams not being on site, as they were working remotely due to the recent pandemic. In other cases, the bandwidth of management has been squeezed due to the extra pressure of coping with the recent Brexit-related supply chain issues.
Whatever the reason, our consultants would highly recommend that Gemba Walks are restarted, as we believe they are a key tool to sustaining Lean. In addition to the potential they provide to observe, they also create an opportunity for engagement and communication between management and value-add team members.
You may be wondering what “Gemba” means. Rather than being an acronym, Gemba is a Japanese term that means “the real place”, which when applied to business refers to the place where value is created.
Take a manufacturing facility as an example – Gemba will refer to the factory floor, as this is where products are made and value is of the utmost importance. However, Gemba can also refer to a construction site, the sales floor, or any other area where value is the primary focus.
The key to continuous improvement is identifying and rectifying small constraints that could lead to larger problems if left to grow. In order to fix an issue you must first find it, which is where Gemba Walks come into play.
A Gemba Walk is very self-explanatory, in that you’re taking a walk around the place where value is created, such as your production line. It involves your management team and key decision makers visiting the Gemba to specifically look for waste and other instances of reduced efficiency. By taking this hands-on and tactical approach, you can locate problems very quickly and work together to fix them, thereby bringing even greater levels of value to your Gemba.
Many of our clients already have in place a system called Management By Wandering Around (MBWA), which is similar to a Gemba Walk in some ways yet different in others.
Whilst MBWA has very little structure in that management teams explore areas pretty much at random, Gemba Walks are a lot more targeted. During a Gemba Walk, you will carefully inspect processes in action and determine whether they are being applied to maximum effect. Any waste and hindrances will be logged and solutions created as a priority.
If your Gemba Walks have dropped off, or maybe never even started, we would strongly recommend action is taken to ensure they do happen as a regular practice, at least once a week. A sure indication that a Gemba Walk is overdue is whenever you see signs that too much waste is being created, production is lower than desired, health and safety procedures are inconsistent, there are communication barriers, or anything else that is hindering the progress of your operational excellence journey.
As visual management specialists, we can visit your site and carry out a Gemba Walk with your senior management team to analyse your setup and pinpoint any areas that require improvement. Often it will be a case of Tim Woods (the enemy of Lean) holding back a Gemba from running at optimal efficiency. On other occasions it will be that specific visual management tools such as 5S cuboids are required in order to ensure that the fifth ‘S’ (sustain) is accomplished by putting visual control together in a single place.
We’re here to help you use Lean principles and visual management products to full effect, which all starts with a productive and smooth-running Gemba. To find out more about how our visual management specialists can support your business, get in touch with our team on +44 (0)1482 296451 or fill in our contact form.
Get in touch and speak with a Visual Management Specialist to answer any questions you may have on our products, consultancy or business.
Is your business achieving its full potential? Clarity offers a proven approach to help your business achieve its vision. Book now!