In manufacturing, leaders often adopt continuous improvement processes to improve their operational efficiency. Tactics include root cause analysis and 5s audits. Lean manufacturing ideals and tactics encourage identifying and brainstorming ways to drive better, and better results. However, disconnected leaders that dictate procedure and policy risk hurting performance more than they help. Regular visits to the shop floor can help keep them connected.
“Gemba Walk” Defined
Gemba is a Japanese term defined as “the actual place”. In manufacturing, the shop floor is the gemba, the “actual place manufacturing is completed”. A gemba walk is a tour of the shop floor. The “gemba walk” bridges theory and practice by bringing leaders to the shop floor to observe processes as they happen. This result is the definition of “gemba walk”.
Benefits and Advantages
Regular gemba walks ensure managers observe their shop floor’s operational reality. Gemba walks highlight how processes on the floor differ from standard operating procedures (SOPs). With focus, this exercise can generate ideas on how to innovate these processes.
Beware, this isn’t meant to be a corrective exercise.
Instead, it should encourage the observer to seek an understanding of why practices differ. Participants should focus on how the actual process is delivering or subtracting value.
While touring a shop floor, gemba participants gain additional context into their SOPs. Then leaders can apply this insight towards improving the conditions, tools, and procedures that are detrimental to production.
Leaders are more consider of their decision’s impact when managers and operators both experience the shop floor.