As the owner of a manufacturing facility, one of your main tasks is to make sure everything runs smoothly down on the production floor. Ideally, everything will work as it should without you hovering over the shoulder of employees. After all, you hire professionals to perform a specific job, and you have other tasks you need to take care. However, making sure everything is running smoothly and discovering ways to improve the performance of employees will help the entire manufacturing process. So from time to time, you need to visit the production floor and perform a walkthrough. Better known as a Gemba walk, there are specific techniques you need to follow to maximize your time. Here is our Gemba walk checklist for maximizing staff communication and improving the overall productivity of your facility.
Origin of the Gemba Walk
Before diving into a Gemba walk checklist, it is important to understand the origin of the walk. Back in the 1930s, Toyota management came up with what it called lean management. Specifically titled “The Toyota Way,” lean manufacturing was made up of five key principles. The first principle was to consider that a specific production has a precise specific value. The second was to identify the value stream of a potential product. Another point to consider was to make value flow without interruptions. The fourth was to let the customer pull value from the product, and the fifth point was to pursue perfection.
The Gemba walk became part of the “Toyota Way” method of lean manufacturing. The purpose of the Gemba walk was for an upper-level employee to take a step back from daily activities and look over the production process. By taking both a wide and closer look at the entire process, they might be able to identify waste. Waste in production drags down profit margins, both from reducing productivity and increasing costs.
The term Gemba stems from the Japanese word genba, which means “the actual place.” So a Gemba walk translates to walking through the actual place. In other words, you will be walking through your production floor, looking for ways to improve production.
Understand the Process
If you don’t understand the process of every employee and station, the Gemba walk is pointless. You won’t know what to look for and what would be considered wasteful. By not understanding the process, you’ll waste not only your time but the time of your employees. You’ll stop to ask questions that don’t need to be asked, and you’ll watch production and not know whether it is the best way of doing it.
So, the first point in the Gemba walk checklist is understanding the process. Know what each station and employee is doing. The more you know, the more successful your walk will be.
Understanding the process will help you during your walk, but it will also help you explain it when executives visit. Perhaps you are in upper management, but you do have a boss. You need to be able to answer your boss the same way employees on the production floor answer to you.
What Is The Purpose Of The Walk?
The general idea of a Gemba walk is to identify things that are causing problems or are reducing the value of the product. So for many, the purpose of the Gemba walk is to identify waste and look for alternatives. If this is the purpose of your walk, this is what you’re looking for. However, there are other reasons why you might want to perform a walkthrough. Perhaps you’re interested in the safety of the employees and the facility in general. Or you want to identify old equipment or dangerous situations. Each Gemba walk needs to have a particular purpose. Don’t use a walk for both improving productivity and identifying safety issues. Dedicate each walk to one focus. You can always take another walk tomorrow and dedicate it to an entirely different purpose.
Stay Open-Minded And Observe
Take your walk slow. It’s not a race to get it done. You are there to observe. It also means you need to have an open mind. This is often one of the more difficult tasks for someone. You may have in your head a precise way every employee needs to do their job, and so if you see them doing their work in a slightly different way, you might grow upset or instantly tell them to stop. However, by having an open mind, you may learn something new about the production process. They may have discovered a new way to improve production, you need to remain open-minded and learn more about it.
So, walk with purpose. Talk with employees and take in what they are doing. You can write notes if it helps. The purpose here is not to correct or blame. It’s a quest for discovery.
The final point of the Gemba walk checklist are questions you should consider. Talk to your employees. Get to know them and their work a little better. Not only does this help you with the walk, but it can help build employee morale. Ask your employees what works best, how to perform their job, if they ever run into problems or if they would change anything about their work. You can also ask about their workstation, if there may be issues with the equipment or if they need anything to help improve the reliability of the machines.
Communication Tools When You Need Them
Your production facility may be loud. It isn’t always as easy as stopping by each station or employee and talking with them. You might need to enhance your voice, listening ability, or both. Whatever your communication needs are, we have you covered here at Plant-Tours. If you’re looking for something specific or you just want to check out what’s out there, feel free to send us an email or give us a call. Our communication experts are here to help you identify the very best equipment to help you better talk to your employees.