What does Gemba mean?

Gemba is a Japanese term that translates to ‘the real place.’ When used in the context of workplace improvement or increased efficiency, the Gemba is the place where actual work is done. For example, in a factory setting, the Gemba would be where the machines and other equipment are putting together the products. It is often referred to as ‘the place where value is created.’

Observing the GembaThe Gemba concept, a Lean manufacturing tool, is used for many things in many workplaces. Any company that wants to make continuous improvements to efficiency, safety, and production will want to understand what Gemba means and what it is in the workplace.

What Gemba is Used For

This term is most commonly used in factories, warehouses, and other similar workplaces. The most well-known way that it is used is for describing Gemba walks. A Gemba walk is when a supervisor or other person in leadership will walk around the shop floor to view how work is actually being done. Unlike management by walking around, Gemba walks are about asking questions.

Companies do this because while the work that supervisors and others do in their offices is important, it is no substitute for actually looking at how it is done and talking to the people who are doing it. Of course, management will have people on the floor who report up to them with any issues or concerns, but again that can’t be used to the exclusion of having supervisors on the shop floor themselves.

Finding Improvement Opportunities on a Gemba Walk

When done properly, using Gemba will allow you to identify many different types of improvement opportunities. By spending time where work is being done, you can spot potential problems, look for inefficiencies, see safety hazards, and much more.

One of the biggest reasons that a Gemba, or a Gemba walkthrough, is so effective is because it facilitates open communication between the front-line workforce and managers and others. This open conversation can help you to hear different ideas on how to improve the workplace right from the lips of those doing the work. These are often ideas that would have otherwise gone unheard if you were to wait in your office for someone to share.

Gemba is one of the simplest workplace improvement concepts out there today, but it is also one of the most effective. Since it can be used alongside any other improvement strategy, there really is no significant reason not to use this concept.


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