Genchi genbutsu is one of hey techniques in Toyota production system. It means go and see. This technique refers to understanding of analysed situation. The best way to understand is to see the problem in the place where it occurs.
Analysis of specification of the process may be not enough to understand problems. E.g. time for the operation in specification can be shorter than the real time due to errors, wrong set-up of workplace, to small inventory. Observation at the workplace will enable managers to immediately see the problem, which was not obvious while reading documentation.
Taiichi Ohno, one of designers of Toyota production system, was known that he took new engineers to the shop floor, drawn a circle using chalk and ordered them to stand, observe and note everything. Using this method he wanted to increase understanding, experience and observation of new engineers. However, this story might be only a part of Toyota legend.
Gemba is Japanese place. The place when the problem occurs. Gemba walk is a way of implementing Genchi genbutsu. In order to understand and collect current information about the process workers should from time to time detach from their usual work and see whole process from a distance. Together with leaders they can discuss their observations and find solutions to problems.
Principles of gemba walk
The gemba walk can be a powerful tool for managers to involve workers, increase performance and reduce waste. It however has to be done right. The main principles are:
- Go and see. The walk should be done regularly.
- Determine objectives of gemba walk
- Understand technical as well as social side of the process
- Ask why. The observation alone is not enough.
- Don't look for failures.
- Look for opportunities to use lean tools - solution approach.
- Look for waste everywhere.
- Ask workers what makes their work difficult and how would they solve it.
- Seek for patterns - use Kaizen approach
- Show respect. Lean requires managers to show respect to the workers. Respect for workers is respect for customer, as the workers create value to the customer.
The best combination of questions is:
- what if...
- why not...
Gemba walk checklist
In order to formalize gemba walk, as well as to remember about important issues, leaders can prepare a checklist for daily or weekly walk. The checklist can include e.g.:
- Indicents occurrence
- Employees performance
- Accidents or injuries
- Personal issues affecting staff
- New training needs
- Quality problems
- Performance of machines
- Problems with transportation
- Problems with building utilities
- Food quality (in case of provision of food for staff)
- Questions about planned events and activities
- Complaints and concerns
- How to go to gemba: go see, ask why, show respect
- Haghirian P. (2010), Understanding Japanese Management Practices, Business Expert Press
- Womack J. (2011) Gemba walk, Lean Enterprise Institute
Author: Slawomir Wawak