Gemba walk checklist defined

Gemba walks are an important tool in the lean manufacturing toolkit. A gemba walk checklist is simply a list of items you’d like to examine during your gemba walks. Checklists can give structure to your initiatives, and make sure the whole team is on the same page. When done well, a good checklist can help you establish priorities, set goals, and ensure that your processes are following standard operating procedure.

Here’s how a thoughtful gemba walk checklist can improve efficiency and reduce waste in your operations.

Why Write a Gemba Walk Checklist?

Think of a Gemba walk checklist as a grocery list. You can do without one, but odds of forgetting an ingredient (or crucial step) are higher without a list to guide you. In manufacturing, it’s good standard practice to document processes for future reference and training. This standardizes operations and ensures quality is not impacted.

Gemba Walk Checklist Questions

Questions on your checklist do not need to be complex and hard to understand. Some questions to consider on your Gemba checklist can be as simple as follows:

  • Did you observe any problems with the established process?
  • Is there an established process for this type of work?
  • What do you do to recognize the root cause of the problem?
  • Who do you speak with if there is a certain problem?
  • How can you fix the problem?

7 Steps toward better gemba walk checklists

This seven step plan is a blueprint with checkpoints at every step of the Gemba walk. Let’s jump in.

Gemba walk checklist

Step 1: Create a theme

Before a walk begins, managers should pick a theme to guide the entire Gemba walk. This narrows the focus of the Gemba walk and yields better results, as attention is not spread amongst different themes and objectives. Once a theme has been chosen (e.g. cost efficiency or operator engagement), it is easier to tailor your Gemba walk questions to the theme in question and ask quality questions.

Step 2: Prepare the team

Inform the team by explaining what a Gemba walk is and what to expect from a routine Gemba walk. Consider sharing your checklist, too. This lowers a team’s anxiety as the Gemba will not be perceived as an evaluation, but rather, a collaboration between stakeholders. Getting buy-in from the team beforehand will also raise questions that would have been missed.

Step 3: Focus on process

Stick to the evaluation of the process and how things are done. Here, a checklist can help. By writing questions that force you to assess the process, not the person, you can avoid the most common gemba walk mistakes: blaming. Remember: You are there to identify opportunities of improvement in the process and systemic barriers on the shop floor hindering productivity.

Gemba walk Tulip app

Step 4: Keep the value stream front and center

Make sure your checklist traces the whole value stream. By sketching these questions out beforehand, you can ensure you don’t miss any crucial stations or processes. Focusing the bulk of your Gemba walk on the value chain is more effective in identifying bottlenecks and potential pockets of waste. Removing such bottlenecks will improve overall performance across the value chain.

Step 5: Record your observations

Record everything. Hoover up every data point you encounter on your Gemba walk. Don’t make assumptions or recommendations before journaling everything you find on the Gemba walk. Here, checklists are helpful. You can record your observations as answers to the questions you know you need answered. You can also just take notes or record and document your findings via video. Regardless of method: record, record, record!

Gemba walk Tulip app

Step 6: Get a second vantage point

Once the Gemba walk has concluded and all relevant information has been recorded, seek a second opinion. Better yet, have another team member write their own checklist. Having a fresh set of eyes review your findings could yield important insights. Comparing checklists can help you locate any gaps in your own thinking. This second perspective could be someone far removed from the operations or an experienced operator who did not take part in the Gemba walk. Feedback reveals overlooked information.

Gemba walk Tulip app

Step 7: Solicit feedback

Present your findings to the team regardless of outcome. Whether your findings were insignificant and no changes need to be made to the operations or vice versa. This brings the collaboration between stakeholders full circle and negates any feelings of being watched by the team during the Gemba walk. If changes need to be made, include them in your presentation tying back to your findings. This brings buy-in from all stakeholders and increases probability of success once the change to operations occurs.

Conclusion

Gemba walks are a crucial observational method for assessing a manufacturing operation. Checklists are an easy, quick tool for adding structure to your observations, and for getting more out of the gemba walks you schedule.

If you’re curious how digitizing your gemba walks can transform the process, you can learn more here.