Gemba: Managing From Where Production Takes Place

There are hundreds of different management strategies that are used in businesses throughout the world. When you need to really get to the heart of how work is done, and make improvements on existing processes, the concept of Gemba is something that needs to be considered. Gemba is a term and concept that comes from Japan but has since been adopted by companies throughout the world.

The term Gemba means ‘the actual place’ and is used to describe the location within a company where the work is done. In a factory environment, for example, the Gemba would be the factory floor where employees are operating machines to make various products. Having supervisors and others spending time in this area will help them to get a better understanding of how things are done, and what changes are needed to make improvements.

Gemba Walks

One of the best ways that someone can start using the Gemba concepts is to schedule regular Gemba walks in the areas of their responsibility. A Gemba walk is when the supervisor or other person walks through the places where work is done. This will give them the opportunity to actually watch the work that is being performed, which may give them ideas on where improvements can be made.

Perhaps the biggest benefit to a Gemba walk is that the supervisor is able to spend time talking to the front-line employees. These are the people who will know what obstacles the company faces with production, and they also have many great ideas on how things can be fixed. Those who perform this type of job on a daily basis are much more likely to have the insights that are needed o make improvement than someone who spends most of the day in an office.

Watch – Listen – Learn

When engaging in a Gemba walk it is important to have the right mindset. The goal is not to go out on the factory floor and start giving instructions on how things can be improved. Instead, a supervisor should go out and spend time watching, listening, and learning as much as possible about the work that is done.

When doing this activity, make sure to ask questions of the employees who work in the area. This will not only help you to learn more about how things are done, but it also helps to build up trust and a good relationship with the employees. Over time, this can lead to a much better working environment for both you and the employees. The more confident the employees are that the management team is pushing for their best interests, the more willing they will be to help contribute to finding better ways to get the job done. In the end, these types of Gemba walks can help to facilitate an environment of continuous improvement.

Benefiting from Continuous Improvement

One of the important things to remember about the concept of Gemba is that it is not a one-time process. Supervisors should not be looking to spend one day on the shop floor each year and expect to see any significant improvements. Instead, this should be something that is done regularly with the goal of making constant improvements to the area.

Many supervisors, for example, will schedule a day or half a day on the shop floor at least once per week. Investing this amount of time at the Gemba will help them to really get a solid understanding of the things that are done. Ideally this should be scheduled at different times of the day, and different days of the week, to ensure they understand what is going on at all times.

Over the course of time, this will allow both the employees and the supervisors to discover many ways that things can be improved upon. After making one improvement, the time spent in an area may reveal opportunities for other changes that can provide even more benefits. This cascading effect will often be able to take a department that may have already been running efficiently, and really take it to the next level. Supervisors and managers that follow the Gemba concepts will be able to ensure their areas of responsibility are always functioning at peak performance. Companies that push their management team to spend time where the work is done will always have an edge over their competition.

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