In many cases, managers spend too much time at their desks, in meetings, and on their phones, which means they often rely on others to tell them what’s going on in their factories. Not having the necessary knowledge of day-to-day occurrences on your shop floor can not only lead to misinformed decision-making, but also an increase in safety hazards and apparent miscommunication between you and your employees.
Thankfully, there are multiple ways of finding out what’s going on, one of which is known as “Gemba Walking”.
Developed by industrial engineers Taiichi Ohno and Eiki Toyoda in the 1950s, Gemba is part of the famous Toyota Production System and stresses the importance getting you right where the action is, and meeting the people doing the actual work so you can see what’s happening for yourself.
To start, pick an area of the factory and stand there for a prolonged period of time. Observe how your employees interact. Take notes and record questions that come to mind, some of which may include “Why are using this process for this task?” and “How can we improve on it?” These can be used in discussions later, especially those centered on devising improvement plans that can be implemented in the long term.
But the true power of Gemba Walking lies in the engagement that not only takes places between your workers, but between you and your employees as well. Rather than using it as a tool to spy on people or immediately point out the negatives, it should be used to gain knowledge, foster continuous improvement, and help sustainability through better communication and open discussion. In fact, when done correctly, people will look forward to seeing you on the shop floor, because it means you’re involved and receptive to their needs and concerns.
Another part of this method is knowing your purpose and having a plan. You’re not going to tackle the entire value stream process at once, so it’s vital to have a specific goal in mind when you go for your Gemba Walk (such as assessing the safety of one small area of the shop) rather than trying to take on all your factory’s shortcomings at once. One best practice is having a plan mapped out for multiple Gemba Walks, as this ensures your efforts aren’t redundant and you’re making the right choices in assessing what can and should be improved.
Finally, whatever you learn during this process will lead to potential ideas for long-term improvements. For example, if you observed an operator walking large distances to retrieve basic tools, you may engage in creative thinking with that employee to create a more efficient floor layout. Not only does this save time, but imagine how happy that employee will be once their job has been made easier!
Want to know more about how Gemba Walking and other lean tools can help you improve all parts of your business? Give MAGNET a call at 216.391.7766 or send us an email – we’d love to help you take the next step in improving your operations and growing your top line.
HEADLINE The survey definitively shows that product innovation leads to more growth, while “grow your own workforce” strategies will be needed to fill the major labor shortages hampering small manufacturer growth. Emerging technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), 3D printing, and digital manufacturing are beginning to enhance innovation and productivity, but still have significant room for adoption amongst Ohio’s small manufacturing businesses. ABOUT THE SURVEY Under the direction of the Ohio Manufacturing Extension Partnership (Ohio MEP), MAGNET: The Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network conducted a thorough survey of Ohio’s manufacturing base. Contributing approximately 20% of Ohio’s jobs (and driving in some regions up to 50% of Ohio’s economy), and generating a disproportionate amount of export revenues and Gross Regional Product, manufacturing is critical to Ohio. Greater than 95% of Ohio’s manufacturers are small (under 500 employees), and these manufacturers need to remain competitive both nationally and internationally to ensure our economy’s health. Ohio’s Development Services Agency and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which runs the MEP, recognizes the importance of this sector and fuels MAGNET and the Ohio MEP program to directly serve and support innovation, efficiency, and growth in small and medium manufacturers. What manufacturers need
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