Lean Manufacturing

You’ve Gotta Go to Gemba More Often Than That!

By Jon Miller Published on March 28th, 2006

True story. Not too long ago I was with another one of our consultants teaching Just in Time principles to a group of newly minted Lean facilitators at one of our client’s factories.
During one of the breaks one of the engineers motions me over. “Hey, do you wanna see one piece flow? I’ll show you one piece flow. Come on. It’ll just take 5 minutes.”
So we quickly put on the PPE and walked out to the factory. I had been in this factory before and I was curious to see where he was going to take me, but I kept quiet. We stopped in front of a packing line.
“They aren’t doing it right! I helped design this. There was one piece flow here before.” Walking back to the training room he said, almost as an excuse, “I haven’t been to this factory in 2 years.” He was angry at first, then embarrassed, then humbled. I didn’t have to say anything. It was a good experience for him.
This engineer is now a Lean leader for this company, visiting their factories around the world and promoting a common and standardized understanding of what Lean manufacturing means to their company.
Genchi gembutsu. These two Japanese words are the quickest way to say “get out to the place where the real work happens and see what’s really happening with your product and processes today”.
The lesson is, if you’re going to take a Gemba guy to the gemba to show him one-piece flow, make sure you’ve been there recently.

  1. stella

    March 27, 2008 - 6:44 pm

    I agree, you need to go to the workplace at least for 10 minutes. I have started a daily audit for the team leaders to do. We review it in our morning market.

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