What is a Gemba Walk

What is a Gemba Walk

We have recently introduced a monthly team walk of the shop floor commonly known in lean manufacturing as a Gemba Walk.

Gemba is a Japanese concept used to describe the personal observation of work, where the work is happening. The original term is ‘Gembutsu’ meaning ‘Real Thing’. The Gemba walk was developed by Taiichi Ohno (One of the founding members of just in time production) to enable executives to leave their daily routine, see the ‘real work’ and build relationships with their workers. 

For example, a formula 1 teams’ Gemba is wherever the car is, for rock bands, Gemba is the recording studio and in manufacturing Gemba is the factory floor – it is where the real work happens.

So, for us Gemba is the shop floor. With the new mezzanine project in full swing we have been working with limited space on the shop floor that has included many disruptions and things having to move into temporary homes.

Our first Gemba walk enabled us to highlight the things that had changed, what’s working/not working with our current layout and storage solutions and to come up with ideas to make the space even better in this continued period.

Once we established what we wanted to work on and put them into a priority order we were able to get started. We created a Gemba board in the office that houses the task list from the most recent walk along with an ideas mood board where everyone can add inspiring or useful content that will help us improve.

Our second Gemba Walk was held last week, and we chose to solely focus on things we didn’t like about the shop floor but could be improved easily. This gave us a clear and precise list to focus on which also meant we were able to deal with the things that were getting to everyone. To ensure we create the best working environment possible a Gemba walk is a brilliant way for everyone to experience the struggles that the team encounter on the shop floor and brings in new pairs of eyes, people that aren’t looking at these things everyday are more likely to pick out things that the team often overlook.

The seven steps of Gemba

Below is the skeleton of a Gemba walk. Follow these steps and you will successfully be able to conduct and action a Gemba walk to benefit your working space.

  1. Pick a theme
  2. Prepare your team
  3. Focus on process, not people
  4. Be where the value stream is
  5. Record your observations, don’t make suggestions during the walk
  6. An extra pair of eyes
  7. Follow up

There is also a simple checklist you can follow whilst conducting or participating in a Gemba walk.

What are you currently working on?

Is there an established process for this type of work?

Do you have any problems with the established process?

Why is there a problem?

How can you fix the problem?

What do you do to recognise the root cause?

Who do you speak with if there is a certain problem?

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