Quality Management: Gemba

Analysis paralysis is a common corporate disease that causes many companies to lose touch with the real steps of the manufacturing processes they’re looking to improve upon. Companies may tend to treat the real-world processes of the organization’s activities as a mere corpus of lifeless, faceless data. In such cases, the emphasis is placed on theoretical abstractions instead of practical applications.

Gemba Walk might be considered a Quality Management Methodology, which has been implemented to correct such misguidance in countless manufacturing firm across all levels, with Toyota pioneering the adoption of the monitoring framework. Just like this article that delineates the need for digitization, Gemba is a radical paradigm shift.


What Does Gemba Mean?

The word Gemba stems from a Japanese root word that means “the real place”, and “the place where value is created”.
That implies that the methodology seeks to bring the decision-makers into contact with reality. It compels the decision-makers to feel the heartbeat of the production processes, to gain deeper insights into the ‘bolts, screws and cogs’ of the operational framework, and to have a clearer picture of the common challenges faced by shop-floor workers. This helps create a contrast between the theoretical abstractions and reality on the ground, so the decision-makers can realign their strategies according to situations on the ground.


The Scope of Gemba Walk

To implement Gemba Walk successfully, a company needs to understand the scope of a Gemba Walk. Without this, the company might go off on a tangent, not knowing where to set the boundaries. For starters, a Gemba Walk revolves around carrying out observations and interactions on the ground floor where the actual value is generated. However, the process precludes fault-finding and nitpicking of workers, the abrupt institution of new changes, and the muzzling of employee discretion.


Employee VS. Employer: Who Takes Center-stage in a Gemba Walk?

Employee input is one of the focal points of a Gemba Walk. The employee inputs are meant to provide insights into the major challenges impeding productivity on the factory floor. However, in order to get accurate information, companies must find ways to elicit loyalty and honesty from employees making contributions.
As such, one of the tenets of Gemba Walk entails explaining to the employees how the benefits of the Gemba Walk transcends the company’s bottom line. The company may choose to emphasize on how the Gemba Walk can enhance the ambiance, comfortability, and safety of the workplace.
According to the U.S Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), businesses spend an estimated $170 billion annually on workplace health problems. With lesser safety concerns in the workplace, a company can save up on a whole lot of costs associated with work-related injuries and illnesses.


Prerequisites for Gemba Walk

In order for a company to harness the potentials that a Gemba Walk presents, the decision-makers must go into the process equipped with a lot of data. This data is collected in a data collection stage that must precede the initiation of the Gemba Walk. Except in emergency management situations where inspection of the factory floor must be carried out urgently, the management needs to take their time in the data collection stage in order to adequately equip themselves going into Gemba.
The collection of relevant data usually entails the deployment of tools such as a value stream map, which is an elaborate depiction of the processes through which value is generated in the business. The deployment of this tool entails a clear understanding of all the steps involved in the process, as well as the ways in which each step contributes to the value offered to customers in the finished products.
By extension, it also entails having a clear understanding of customer’s needs and preferences. Customers are usually motivated to buy by the perceived value and utility they assign to the product. Anything that does not contribute to the creation of such values is valueless. With tools such as the value stream map, companies identify the appropriate data sets to obtain in preparation to interact intelligently with floor workers during a Gemba Walk.


The Contrast Between Gemba Walk and Automated Data Collection

If you do not already know how much influence data exerts in businesses today, read this piece. The modern business management processes usually entail the use of computers and automated machines that make it easier to collect data. There might be a misrepresentation of data obtained from these automated processes as data obtained from real Gemba Walks.
There are certain things that cannot be revealed by data gathered through automated processes. Such findings only surface through close up interactions with workers on the factory floor.



By switching focus to the operational activities as well as the employees in order to gather insightful, real-time information about the main impediments to production, companies can use Gemba Walk to boost employee satisfaction, work morale, and floor productivity.
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