Continuous assessment and improvement of any business is integral in order to ensure the company continues to grow and succeed. However, many business owners and management teams are looking in the wrong places. Most of the time, the discussions about improvement and growth are done in management meetings, but this is actually not the best approach. Instead, you should be looking at the shop floor to find out which areas can be improved and how.
The companies who put all the decision-making and improvement projects solely into the hands of the management teams are missing out on a vital resource and will likely misunderstand what needs to be changed. It is those on the shop or factory floor who see the inner workings of the company and understand it better than anyone else.
It is therefore a better approach to consistently check in with those on the floor and see how they are doing and how their processes are working. A great way to do that in an organized, scheduled and consistent manner is to perform regular gemba walks.
How does a Gemba walk work?
A Gemba walk is a simple problem solving, lean management process in which a team of people routinely walk through the factory floor and assess the effectiveness of business processes.
It is important to remember, however, that a Gemba walk is not a time for you to be assessing the work of your employees. Instead, you need to be putting all your focus towards the way in which your factory floor is being run. During your Gemba walk, you need to make sure that you are taking notes about the different processes in order to reflect on it in a meeting that follows the walk.
It is a good idea to split your walks up into themes as you cannot check on everything each time you go through the factory floor. You should therefore reserve one walk for health and safety, one walk for machine functionality, one walk for individual processes and so on.
In addition to allocating each walk its own theme, you should also hand pick the members of each team that are going to perform the Gemba walk. It is pointless to have an engineer team member whose expertise lies in the operation of machinery perform a Gemba walk that is focused on the workplace environment. Instead, utilise his knowledge in the Gemba walk that is focused on the machinery.
In essence, a Gemba walk is a process in which various teams routinely check the functions and processes that are occurring on the shop floor in order to improve the systems that are currently at play and increase efficiency.
What is the goal of a Gemba walk?
The ultimate goal of a Gemba walk is to identify opportunities for improvement. The process allows those who are higher up in the company to identify what is working well and what is not working so well on the ground. From there they can alter the processes that they are currently relying on. It therefore fosters continuous improvement within the workplace.
How to perform a Gemba Walk
There are some important things that you need to keep in mind if you are planning to perform a Gemba walk. Although you could just walk through and observe, you will not get the most out of your walk. Below we have collated the perfect Gemba walk checklist list of things to keep in mind when you begin your Gemba walks.
It is never a good idea to go into a Gemba walk without a plan, because you simply will not be as efficient as you need to be when you are actually on the floor. This is even more important when you have a team performing a Gemba walk, as you want everyone to be working in conjunction with each other.
Moreover, a solid planning process will ensure that you pick the right team members to work together on each walk. Preparing the teams is just as important as planning the walk. As for planning the walk, you should consider some key things that you think the team should be looking out for and checking up on in order to give them some initial guidance. Planning will overall create a more streamlined and efficient Gemba walk process.
Warn those on the ground
It is extremely important that you let those on the ground know that the people performing the Gemba walk are not there to assess them. It can be daunting for staff members if they think their performance is being assessed, which might result in them acting differently and not providing you with an accurate insight into how everything is working on the shop floor.
One of the best ways to ensure that workers on the ground are aware that you are performing a Gemba walk and nothing else is to establish a routine and schedule. If you plan your Gemba walk to take place at 11 a.m. every Wednesday, then at 11 a.m. every Wednesday, when people with checklists are coming round observing everything, they will know that it is not them who are being observed.
It is important to maintain healthy relationships with your staff and employees and keeping them well informed about what is going on within the business is a great way to foster these healthy working relationships.
Although sometimes Gemba walks can be a quick process, at other times, your Gemba walk can be thorough and take you a while, which is why you always need to record your findings to ensure that you do not forget what you have seen. Recording everything will also help you when you come to your debriefing meeting and you are all collating ideas to improve processes.
Also, taking notes of what you are seeing will minimize the urge to change things on the spot. Recording your thoughts and ideas encourages you to wait until your walk is over to share your ideas with everyone.
Benefits of Gemba walks for your business
Improves working relationships
Many companies fail to value the relationships between those working on the ground and those higher up in the business. However, it is those on the ground who are keeping the business running so their importance should not be underestimated.
It is integral that everyone within the business feel as though they can approach one another, and that is exactly what a Gemba walk promotes. Gemba walks essentially force management teams to be on the floor on a regular basis. This presence on the shop/factory floor means they are familiar with their staff.
This provides a whole range of benefits as the more friendly everyone is with each other, the more approachable those higher up in the company become, which will allow staff on the ground to feel more comfortable raising concerns or issues before they become bigger problems.
A Gemba walk allows you to improve processes in real-time. Although you aren’t making the changes whilst performing the Gemba walk, you are provided with real-time feedback. As this is a continuous process, you can make changes and improve things at a much faster rate.
You will not be hit with any kind of huge problem or issue because you are always checking up on how things are working. It is the best way to stay on top of things and ensure nothing gets out of hand.
Gemba walks and software tools: a powerful combination
If you think that your business could benefit from implementing regular Gemba walks, one of the best ways in which you can perform a Gemba walk is to leverage software tools. Having a Gemba walk software will allow you to seamlessly plan everything. The Gemba walk app allows you to create personalized checklists to ensure that you never forget important details.
It also allows you to :
- Take thorough notes of issues and problems using checklists, textual notes, pictures, etc.
- Reduce data collection time
- Generate actionable insights and ideas
- Integrate insights into your preferred task management tools