In manufacturing, Gemba usually refers to the shop floor. In the business environment, Gemba represents the site of value creation within the organization’s core business processes and supporting activities.

Gemba is now recognized and included in the management lexicon to describe the ‘workplace’ or the place where value is added to work processes and generated outcomes. Gemba Kaizen covers process improvement initiatives where production takes place.

The philosophy of Gemba means that all actions and processes are as transparent as possible. This visibility allows Gemba team members to conduct regular Gemba Walks to understand the operating complexity and employee workload better, identify potential problems and root causes, and make improvements.

Gemba Walks, as many elements of lean manufacturing methodologies, was initially developed by Toyota as part of their approach and dedication to continuous improvement (Toyota Production System).

“Quality means doing it right when no one is looking.”
Henry Ford

Gemba Walk Description 

Gemba Walk is the supporting management Gemba practice used in manufacturing and other industries to drive efficiency and improve safety proactively. Organizational executives and managers conduct Gemba Walks to view the shop floor or business site to observe the ordering process and obtain keen and valuable data and insights from employees. This approach bridges the Gemba theory and practice by relocating company leaders to the shop floor or site to observe the actual operating processes as they happen.

Gemba Walks highlight how targeted processes align or vary from the organization’s Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). With focus, this approach can generate ideas on how to innovate and improve the processes.

Gemba Walk is a structured method to gather information through observation and interaction with the employees responsible for the targeted activities. It is not a time for the Gemba Team to:

  • Find fault and call out employees.
  • Quickly implement change on the spot.
  • Disregard employee input.

Gemba Walks are components within Lean and Six Sigma management methodologies, both of which emphasize the need for a high-level of employee safety as a critical component of productivity.

3 MU’s Definition

The 3 MU’s – Muda, Mura, and Muri are three Japanese words that translate into Waste (non-valuing adding), Variation, and Excess Physical Burden. Just as health is contingent on the total absence of any virus (and other pathogens); correspondingly shop-floor or site health can be determined by the presence or absence of the 3Mu virus.

Examples of Muda typically discovered during Gemba walk-in shop floors and sites include:

  • Intellect
  • Inventory
  • Motion
  • Over-processing
  • Over-production
  • Rework
  • Transportation
  • Waiting

Gemba Walk Considerations

The essential guidelines that are generally considered by the Gemba Walk Team include:

  • Be respectful of employees and their work responsibilities.
  • Bring no agenda.
  • Consider what’s going well.
  • Do not assume, ask follow-up questions.
  • Do not rush – grow roots.
  • Document observations and employees’ responses.
  • Keep an eye out for star players.
  • Remain unbiased – start and remain open-minded.

Gemba Walk Value

Successful use of Gemba Walk demonstrates commitment, alignment, and support of the continuous improvement process. Key value points include:

  • Assist management in comprehending better how the organization works.
  • Realign targeted processes with Standard Operating Procedures (SOP).
  • Help align a manager’s perception of reality.
  • Improve respect from the floor and site-level employees toward management.
  • Improve the channel of communication with every employee.
  • Increase of OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness).
  • Increase in productivity.
  • Mitigate health and safety hazards.

The Way Forward

Knowledge Compass provides consulting services with the use of an array of Frameworks, Analyses Tools, and Interactions from their Best Practices Consultant Toolbox.