Checklist: How to Measure Success of Your Gemba Walks
Going on a Gemba Walk helps you understand what is happening in a given area, how it happens, and why what is supposed to happen is or isn’t.
In general, a Gemba Walk (a “real place” walk; in manufacturing, this is the factory floor) means going to where the action is. Rather than sitting at your desk and using graphs, statistics, and charts to try to improve things, you can proceed to the factory to observe processes and interact with shop personnel.
Take a Checklist with You
While you will want to take a checklist on your Gemba Walk, remember that the main objective of the Gemba is to observe the work area, noting what goes on there: how it happens, who is doing what and how are they doing it, what machinery is operating, what materials workers are using, and noting workflow processes and safety protocols. You want to go the Gemba with an open mind to observe and to listen, glancing at your checklist if need be while you are there for ideas or to refresh your memory about an aspect of the work on which you choose to focus.
Many examples of Gemba checklists exist on the Internet. You can use them as a guide but researchers suggest it is best to develop a tailored checklist using Seven Wastes and 4M guidelines.
Delay, waiting, or time spent in a queue no value being added
Producing more than need
Over processing or undertaking non-value added activity
Unnecessary movement or motion
Production of defects
The questions you ask yourself and workstation personnel should be open ended to allow for any response, even (and especially) answers you may not expect to hear. As an example, based on the Seven Wastes, you can ask “Are people spending time waiting at a queue with no value added?” Or “Is there unnecessary movement or motion at the workstation?”
Method: using the inventory management system to establish what is needed and what inventory stock levels impacts this
Manpower: the ideal number of people it will take to perform the work and what positions should they be in
Machine: do you have everything you need to insure the safety of the employees while maximizing the efficiency and productivity of the department? Do all employees have access to the tools and equipment they need?
Materials: do you have the materials to perform all parts of production and are they located conveniently?
Questions based on the 4 M might include: “Do workers have the correct tools (or machines) to perform the job?” and “Are there any abnormal conditions like leaks, safety concerns, hazardous situations, or dirt?”
A checklist makes Gemba Walk results measurable. Use it as mental prep before going out on the shop floor. By following this simple protocol, you can see progress:
Ask the question.
Note the answer.
Suggest a solution.
Implement the solution.
Check on progress.
Measuring the results can take the form of a graph, a chart, statistics, or a spreadsheet. The point is to keep on top of problems, do the Gemba Walks regularly and consistently, and document solutions. This allows you to see how a chart or spreadsheet happens in real life, and how what you noted mentally and massaged into a management tool actually pans out and results in improvements on the shop floor. Regular Gemba Walks can also ward off potential problems that you or workstation personnel may observe are developing.
Gemba Walks have fostered some substantial, if not earth-shaking, results in manufacturing and elsewhere. In one instance, a company exec found that the kaizen (continuous improvement) changes his workers were implementing not only were not working, but also were causing serious problems.
In most cases, a Gemba Walk will not take you that far out of your element. But observing real-world activities does mean getting out of your executive chair and walking onto the factory floor.
Real-world experience is often only a few steps away. Take those few steps and use the checklist you created. By noting problems, suggesting and implementing changes, and measuring improvements, you will find the checklist is a valuable tool.