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Gemba means “the real place” or “the actual place” in Japanese.” In a Lean business, leaders (such as executives or managers) go to the gemba to see the work that is being done. This actual place is the assembly line, the warehouse, the sales office, or any other location where value is created in a business. This visit to gemba is often referred to as a gemba walk or genchi genbutsu, which means “go and see.”
Company leaders often perform gemba walks regularly—sometimes daily or weekly—but it’s possible for anyone in an organization to go and see what’s actually going on. While on a walk, people observe the actual place, the actual product, and the actual process used to make that product.
Gemba walks can take place on a schedule to observe what’s happening. They can also be used to find out what’s causing a problem. A walk can also try to identify waste.
The person conducting a walk should make sure to seek input from the people involved in processes. He or she should also try not to jump to conclusions about anything. Gemba walks are about gathering data and input.
While on a walk, the walker can consider questions such as:
- Are protocols being followed?
- Is standard work clear?
- What’s working well?
- Which activities add/don’t add value?
- Is the process consistent?
- Is equipment running well?
- Is housekeeping a problem?
- Do workers need additional training?
- Does the layout of the workstation make sense?
- Are there any safety issues?