If you truly want to find ways to improve the functioning of your business and provide good work conditions, you need to be on the factory or shop floor on a regular basis. This is where safety walks and Gemba walks come in handy. Both serve to provide deep insights in areas that are integral to business growth. In this article, we explain what safety walks and Gemba walks are as well as how they can help you identify opportunities for continuous improvement.
What is a safety walk?
A safety walk is a process in which a line manager or safety officer takes a walk through the work area to watch workers doing their jobs, examine working conditions, and talk to employees about the overall safety of their work environment.
It’s not to be confused with an inspection, which is a formal process in which a person documents hazards and unsafe work practices in a company. Safety walks are not related to safety audits, which are used to evaluate a business’s health and hazard management systems.
A safety walk is focused solely on what people do on the job every day. It‘s designed to catch everyday mistakes that could lead to serious injuries if left unchecked, and flag any safety concerns that might arise on a daily basis.
It gives employees a chance to see safety in action and understand why certain practices are dangerous and it helps managers spot problems before they get worse. Safety walks are critical to employers because they bring safety issues out in the open. They provide a platform for employees to share ideas, ask questions, and suggest improvements.
What is a Gemba walk?
In Japan, the word Gemba refers to the actual location where something takes place. A Gemba walk is a process improvement tool, where you walk through a “real” place within an organization, such as the production floor or shop floor, and see what actually happens there. You can use this method to improve processes, reduce costs, minimize waste, increase productivity and make sure things are done properly.
Gemba walks are usually performed by people who are already familiar with the production system, such as employees, managers, engineers, and technicians. They know how things work inside the organization and can easily identify problems during the walk.
Safety walks vs. Gemba walks – what’s the difference?
Safety walks focus on safety
A safety walk is an inspection of the workplace carried out by safety professionals to ensure that the work area is safe. For example, a manager may walk around the factory floor and observe the employees’ work environment, working conditions, and adherence to safety protocols. Managers that conduct safety walks examine practices such as employee use of protective equipment and tool storage.
Safety walks focus on compliance and employee awareness
Safety walks are similar to safety audits and inspections in that they both focus on whether a facility complies with certain regulations and guidelines. However, safety walks differ because they also aim to increase worker awareness of safety practices, provide feedback to management regarding the health and well-being of workers, and encourage employees to identify potential hazards before they occur.
Gemba walks focus on improvement
Gemba walks are different from safety walks in that they challenge the safety walk’s focus on compliance. Gemba kaizen is a Japanese idea that emphasizes continual improvement through process enhancement and optimal resource management. Therefore, a Gemba walk is a journey through a workplace that is aimed at enhancing function and minimizing waste.
Unlike traditional safety walks, Gemba walks focus less on compliance, and much more on sustained improvement, to develop greater value. Managers can conduct Gemba walks during work hours in order to better understand how employees operate and promote safety culture from a pragmatic perspective. A Gemba walk also allows for a more open exchange between management and employees, which promotes development.
Why do companies perform Gemba walks?
Companies perform Gemba walks because to improve processes, implement a culture of continuous improvement and foster better relationships between management and employees. The insights gained from Gemba walks optimize decision-making and increase productivity.
Some of the key advantages of Gemba walks include:
- First-hand knowledge of overall conditions
- Strong manager-employee relations
- Morale improvement
- Identification of areas for improvement
- Improved communication
- Increased trust among employees
Digitize your Gemba walks
Gemba walks help reveal areas for improvement or problems in an organization and provide an opportunity to evaluate how things work in practice. A Gemba walk involves visiting each department in the company and observing operations firsthand. However, not every business has the time to plan these walks from start to finish.
This is why we have developed a specialized web-based app that makes the entire Gemba walk process easier. Our digital solution allows you to easily record data and save all the recordings that you collect during your walks. These are then stored securely in a cloud-based management app that allows you to easily access all your findings in one place.
Our Gemba walk software allows you to:
- Easily take digitized notes
- Reduce data collection time
- Obtain invaluable insights
- Integrate your information into a task management software