Gemba Kaizen

Gemba and kaizen go together like peanut butter and jelly.

Gemba KaizenIn Japanese, Gemba means “the actual place”. In kaizen, the phrase “Go to Gemba First” is often used. It means that you must go to where the action is or where the process is completed. It is the workbench, the sales meeting, production line, or the cubicle. To make changes in a process, you must actually see the process in action.

Many managers never leave their offices. Instead, they rely on reports or meetings to get the information they need to make decisions. This isn’t the process for a Kaizen workplace. The manager must intimately know the processes in order to be able to make the small improvements that are the backbone of Kaizen.

“To make changes in a process, you must actually see the process in action.”

Managers must be constantly watching and learning how their employees are doing things. Before embarking on a Gemba walk, the manager will need to decide where the walk should take place. This can either be looking at the manufacturing process as a whole or a specific part of the process. Like with any other Kaizen strategy, managers should be looking for areas of improvement both big and small. During the walk, managers will talk to frontline workers and observe how work is currently being carried out. This is an opportunity for employees to make suggestions and show where they think improvements should be made. It is important for whoever is taking the Gemba walk to take their time in observing activities, seeing which ones add value and which ones are wasteful

Gemba is an extremely effective tool for fostering a culture of continuous improvement while breaking down barriers in the workplace. If a facility has already implemented the philosophy of Kaizen, employees are already looking to identify areas of improvement and can bring their suggestions to management. Gemba walks can also be scheduled after a Lean tool has been implemented, so managers can decide whether or not the change was successful.

The concept of Gemba was developed at Toyota by Taiichi Ohno and is still a popular strategy in Japan. In many Japanese companies, Gemba is the responsibility of all employees, even financial and administrative. They are required to go to Gemba to observe the processes to get a better understanding of their own positions. It is truly a model that is the responsibility of every worker.

Additional Resources