When we are speaking about Lean and its techniques, we find “Genba” as one of its powerful ones. As most of Lean tools, we speak about logic activities which are not utilized by companies but, with the correct implementation and constant use, they give great productivity and communication improvements.
Genba (or Gemba) is a Japanese term meaning “the actual place”.
In Japan, the origin of this concept, they used this word to speak about crime scenes. In Lean it is referred to the place in which the value is created, in manufacturing contexts the genba is the factory floor. It can be applied to any site or manufacturing concept such as a construction site, services operations or similar.
Within lean manufacturing, the idea of genba is that the problems are always visible, and the best improvement ideas will come from going to the genba. The genba walk is an activity that takes management to the front lines to look for waste and opportunities to practice genba continuous improvements, or practical shop floor kaizen. It consists on a walk whose integrants are generally from different departments (so that opinions and suggestions are as objective as possible) and that interview one operator at a time. There is a prepared checklist with several intentional questions that lead the interviewee to respond and create value to the process that is being undertaken.
Within quality management, genba means the manufacturing floor and the idea is that if a problem occurs, the engineers must go there to understand the full impact of the problem (genchi genbutsu which means going to the exact place to see the problem), gathering data from all sources.
The idea and objetive for genba is that everyone must be customer-driven, one must go to the customer’s genba to understand his problems and opportunities, using all one’s senses to gather and process data.
Gemba walks implies the action of going to see the current operational process, understand the work which is being done by the operator, ask intentional questions, and learn how to improve it. It is also known as one fundamental part of Lean management philosophy.
The Gemba Walk is an opportunity for staff to identify wasteful activities and designed to allow leaders to identify safety issues, observe machinery, equipment and facilities’ conditions, ask about the practiced standards to the allocated operators, increase the knowledge about the work status and build closer relationships with employees. The objective of Gemba Walk is to understand the value stream and its problems detecting where to reduce waste or add value. Gemba Walk is one of the five Lean guiding principles that should be practiced by Lean leaders on a daily basis.
Executives and Management should spend 60 minutes every week or two gemba walking with a Lean leader. Afterwards, they should regularly gemba walk on their own together with a transversal team.