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Step Up Your Gemba Walks with Smart Factory Technology

Unlock the power of Gemba walks in manufacturing with O3 Smart, enhancing observation, identification, and improvement of processes, thereby promoting continuous improvement and operational excellence.
Written by
O3ai
Published on
July 6, 2023

This guide is here to help you get to grips with Gemba walks, their importance in manufacturing, and how the O3 Smart manufacturing platform can make these walks more effective.

What's a Gemba walk? In short, it's a technique from Lean management philosophy that comes from a Japanese term meaning "the real place." Managers and leaders leave their offices, walk around the shop floor, and observe work processes in action. The goal is to spot and record:

  • waste,
  • inefficiencies
  • and opportunities for improvement.

Gemba walks are a vital part of lean methodology in the manufacturing industry. 

They bridge the gap between managers and frontline staff, sparking conversations that can solve problems and boost productivity. In a nutshell, they're an essential part of maintenance and a key driver of productivity.

Now, where does the O3 platform fit into this? 

O3 Maintenance has features built specifically to make Gemba walks easier and more productive. This includes:

  • data tracking
  • guided routing
  • and the ability to record observations straight into the system.

In this way, the O3 platform makes conducting and managing Gemba walks more accessible and effective. By the end of this guide, you'll know how to tap into the power of O3 to improve your Gemba walks.

Understanding Gemba Walks

Getting the most from your Gemba walks starts with knowing what they are and what they aim to achieve.

A Gemba walk is all about managers and leaders heading to the "Gemba" - the place where value gets created. In most cases, that's the factory floor. The aim is to get a firsthand look at the work, the challenges, and the efficiencies at play.

The primary goals of a Gemba walk are:

  • Observe: Get to grips with the current work process and see how it all interacts.
  • Identify: Spot any waste or inefficiencies and find areas where improvements can be made.
  • Respect: Listen and learn from the frontline staff who are doing the work every day.

Gemba walks have a big part to play in continuous improvement and autonomous maintenance:

  • Continuous Improvement: Gemba walks open the door to ongoing improvement. Leaders can spot inefficiencies and deal with them directly. The result? More streamlined processes and boosted productivity.
  • Autonomous Maintenance: When managers and frontline workers talk, good things happen. Gemba walks spark these conversations, encouraging workers to take charge of their areas, fix small issues, and come up with improvements. That's autonomous maintenance in action - a key part of successful lean manufacturing.

In the next sections, we'll show you how to prep for a Gemba walk and how to use the O3 platform to make this process run even smoother.

Preparing for a Gemba Walk

Before setting off on a Gemba walk, it's essential to do a little planning. Getting prepared ensures your Gemba walk goes smoothly and helps you get the most from the experience. Here's what you need to focus on:

1. Choosing a Focus or Theme for the Gemba Walk

Decide on what you want your Gemba walk to achieve. Are you looking to identify waste? Want a better understanding of a specific process? Or perhaps you need to take a closer look at a known problem? Having a clear aim gives your walk a purpose and makes planning your observations easier.

2. Identifying and Preparing the Participants

Decide who's going to be part of your Gemba walk. Typically, you'll want managers involved, but depending on your theme, you might also want to include employees from different departments and levels. Once your team is assembled, make sure they understand what the Gemba walk is about. This includes explaining what a Gemba walk is if they're not already familiar with it, and briefing them on the objective of this particular walk.

3. Determining the Schedule and Route for the Walk

Arrange a time for the walk that doesn't interfere with normal operations. If you're targeting a specific process, make sure you schedule your walk for when that process is happening.

Plan your route next. Your theme should guide your route - for example, if you're looking at a particular process, make sure your route takes in all the stages of that process. And be prepared to be flexible - the whole point of a Gemba walk is to see how things really work, so you may need to change your route at short notice.

Using the O3 Platform for Gemba Walks

Now we'll show you how to use the O3 platform to make your Gemba walks run more smoothly. The O3 platform has features designed specifically to make Gemba walks easier, including:

  • Scheduling walks
  • Creating and recording observations
  • Tracking data

Here's how to use these features during a Gemba walk:

1. Setting up a Gemba Walk

Sign into the O3 platform and select "Gemba Walk" from the Autonomous Maintenance (AM) screen. Then choose your group, plant, area, and owner from the drop-down menus.

2. Making an Observation

If you spot something worth noting during your Gemba walk, you can record it quickly and easily. Click the "Add Observation" button (which looks like a plus symbol) to bring up the observation screen. Describe what you've observed, then choose the relevant categories from the dropdown menu. These could include specific departments or 5S categories.

Next, classify your observation. This could be "Major," "Minor," or another classification. You can also upload any images that help explain the observation. Once you've done all that, save your observation.

3. Taking Action on an Observation

If your observation needs action, you can set that up directly in the O3 platform. Click on the "Add Action" icon and describe what needs to be done. Choose the appropriate department from the dropdown menu and assign the action to a user. If necessary, you can add extra comments and set a target completion date.

If you want a photo uploaded once the action is completed, check the "Picture After" box. This feature lets you see that the action has been carried out in the AM Action Plan.

The user who's been assigned the action is then responsible for marking the action as "Complete" or "Reject," depending on whether the task has been carried out.

4. Wrapping Up an Observation

When all the actions related to an observation have been checked, you can close the observation in the Gemba Walk module. Please note that you need to verify each action associated with an observation before you can close it.

With the O3 platform's real-time data tracking, you can keep tabs on progress and make changes on the go during your Gemba walk. You can record all your observations and insights directly in the system, ensuring everything gets logged and can be found easily later on.

Best Practices for Conducting Gemba Walks

To run a successful Gemba walk, you need to be strategic and considerate. And when you use the O3 platform, the whole process becomes even smoother. Here's how to ensure your Gemba walks are a success with the help of the O3 platform:

Document Observations As You Go

Record your observations directly in the O3 platform as you make your Gemba walk. This means you don't have to make separate notes and ensures all important details are logged straight away. Plus, it's much easier to categorize, assign, and follow up on observations when they're recorded in the O3 platform.

Promote Open Dialogue and Feedback

Open communication is key to a successful Gemba walk. Encourage your team to give feedback, express their worries, and offer their insights. The O3 platform can help facilitate this by serving as a central location for comments, observations, and actions during your Gemba walk.

Use Your Findings to Continually Improve

After your Gemba walk, use the O3 platform to review the observations and actions you recorded. This information can be invaluable in your ongoing efforts to improve and promote autonomous maintenance. By highlighting areas that need improvement, you can put together a plan of action to tackle problems and optimize your processes, thereby making your operations run even more smoothly.

Summary

Gemba walks are a key part of the lean manufacturing philosophy, giving you a firsthand look at how things work on the shop floor. They give managers and leaders the chance to spot waste, inefficiencies, and areas that could be improved.

The O3 platform takes Gemba walks to the next level, enhancing autonomous maintenance. The platform's ability to track data in real time means you can update and adapt on the move. 

Using O3, you can record observations and actions directly, which means all your information is captured accurately and follow-ups are seamless. Plus, you can use the data and insights collected in the platform to inform your ongoing efforts to improve.

We urge you to make the O3 platform a regular part of your Gemba walks. As you get more used to its features, you'll see how invaluable it is in creating a culture of ongoing improvement and operational excellence.

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