The Lean Method: Go To Gemba and Improve Your Quality Control

In 2024, where competitive advantage runs at the speed of innovation, one method is surging in popularity among global leaders for its unparalleled results – The Lean Method. This blog post unveils the ins and outs of ‘Go To Gemba’, a cornerstone principle of this novel approach that revolutionizes quality control. Prepare to navigate through underutilized avenues of efficiency and productivity as we dive deep into practical strategies to implement Gemba in your business sphere. It’s time to turn your quality control from a mere function into a formidable force. Let us embrace excellence together.

In Lean methodology, “Go to Gemba” refers to the practice of going to the actual place where work is being done in order to observe and gain a deeper understanding of the processes involved. It focuses on firsthand observation, asking questions, and showing respect to improve work processes and drive continuous improvement. Our article provides insights into the purpose, process, and people involved in Gemba visits, along with key principles and perspectives for effective implementation.

Unveiling “Go To Gemba”

The Lean methodology is a concept that emphasizes the need to go to the “gemba” when seeking to improve quality control. In essence, this approach advocates for observing work processes in action to better understand how value is created and how it can be improved. The gemba is often described as the place where the work happens and where the value is produced. It is a physical location that represents the real-world environment where work takes place.

Origin and Meaning

The term “gemba” originates from Japan, where it was first used in manufacturing environments during the 20th century. It means “the actual place,” which refers to the place where value is created. The concept of going to the gemba has its roots in the Toyota Production System, which sought to eliminate waste and improve quality by making small, continuous improvements over time.

  • According to a 2019 survey by The Lean Enterprise Institute, nearly 64% of organizations that adopted the Lean methodology and the principle of going to the Gemba reported significant improvements in their operational efficiencies.
  • Research from Boston University’s School of Management (2023) indicated that companies using the “go to gemba” approach had a 33% higher problem-solving rate than those who did not use this tactic.
  • A study published in Quality Management Journal (2024), found that organizations applying the Lean practice of “going to the gemba,” experienced a 25% overall reduction in waste within their work processes over a two-year period.

Significance in Quality Control

In the context of quality control, going to the gemba has immense significance. It provides a better understanding of what is happening on the ground and allows management to observe situations firsthand. This knowledge can aid in creating better systems and processes that improve quality control. By identifying issues, opportunities for improvement, and areas of waste companies can decrease costs and improve overall efficiency.

This approach helps businesses to meet customer expectations more consistently by providing superior products and services, enhancing customer loyalty, which leads to improved revenue performance. Continuous improvement in quality control is essential for businesses that want to stay competitive in modern markets.

Benefits of the Gemba Method

The benefits of implementing the go-to-gemba method are vast. It creates a culture of constant improvement within an organization, eases communication among employees in different departments, uncovers inefficiencies and inconsistencies, promotes collaboration, and reduces risks while improving output.

One significant benefit of this approach demonstrated through research is its effect on waste elimination. Four classifications can be used when observing work: solution view, problem view, waste view, and kaizen view.

Classification Description
Solution View Observing work with an emphasis on identifying solutions or making modifications to existing ones
Problem View Focusing on analyzing deviations from what should happen vs. what actually occurs
Waste View Studying non-value-added activities within a system
Kaizen View Identifying continuous improvement opportunities aimed at establishing patterns of behavior towards excellence

By focusing on waste (muda) within an extensive study of history, Genichi Taguchi developed methods for reducing production defects caused by practical variables.

Think about the method as a deep-sea exploration that uncovers new insights and improves future productivity. Seeing how processes take place in real time, clarifying problems, and gaining insights into potential solutions enhances employee participation and improves customer satisfaction.

In short, gemba walks offer significant benefits for companies willing to make the effort. This methodology helps uncover issues compounding waste and quality control issues while nurturing an organizational culture that allows businesses to stay ahead of the curve effectively.

Waste Elimination

One of the core features of the Gemba visit is waste elimination. The Lean philosophy stresses that any activity that doesn’t add value to the customer is a source of waste and should be eliminated. Lean practitioners refer to these non-value-adding activities as “muda.” These can include defects in the production process, overproduction, waiting times, unused talent or resources, inefficient transportation methods, and excess inventory. When visiting the Gemba, one should look for ways to identify and eliminate these sources of “muda,” leading to more efficient processes and higher quality control.

Improved Processes

The purpose of going to the Gemba isn’t just to identify sources of waste. It’s also about gaining insights into how processes work and identifying ways to improve them. By observing firsthand how work is being done, it’s often possible to see areas where improvements could be made that may not be apparent otherwise. Whether it’s finding ways to reduce cycle time or increasing output, the Gemba visit should always seek to find ways to improve processes.

Think about it as looking at a landscape painting – at first glance it might look beautiful, but upon closer inspection, you see small imperfections that if addressed would make it even better.

Whether through simplification or optimization techniques, an optimized process can increase efficiency while reducing defects and waste levels. Process improvement has a direct impact on product quality and customer satisfaction.

Conducting a Successful Gemba Visit

As mentioned earlier, the first principle of going to the gemba is “go and see.” This means that Lean professionals should visit the actual place where products are made or services delivered to obtain accurate information about work processes. To conduct a successful gemba visit, it’s essential to understand three crucial factors: purpose, process, and people involved. The purpose of the visit should be clear, and everyone participating must have a shared understanding of goals and desired outcomes. The Lean practitioner should also observe the work processes without making any assumptions about what’s happening. Finally, it’s crucial to pay attention to how people interact with one another in their respective roles.

For example, when visiting an oil rig during offshore drilling operations, keep in mind the various safety procedures that workers must follow while on duty. Observe if there are bottlenecks or slow processes that can compromise safety protocols.

What happens when workplace problems are spotted? Let’s find out.

Spotting Workplace Problems

Once you’re at Gemba and have identified the purpose of your visit, your task then involves looking for problems in the workplace that could be impacting workflow quality. Four different perspectives highlight these problems: solution view, waste view, problem view, and kaizen view.

The first perspective looks for practical solutions to issues found within the context of a given program or product. Meanwhile, waste-view helps identify steps within a process that fail to add value while taking time and resources from productive tasks. With Problem-view, efforts focus instead on identifying potential root causes of present challenges with objective clarity aided by cause-and-effect analysis techniques. Lastly, kaizen view evaluates continuous improvement opportunities by establishing patterns of behaviors in response to feedback from data collected during initial observation.

Think of conducting a workplace analysis using this method as driving through a foggy area- Every problem identified becomes like a gust of wind that helps clear up the mist, leading to a clearer view of what lies ahead.

For example, suppose an R&D group faces difficulty navigating long distances to the gemba offshore to observe drilling. In that case, they can create mini-gembas within the office by bringing prototypes and models for their teams’ scrutiny.

Following identifying problems on your Gemba visit comes resolving them by implementing solutions. Resolving requires some post-visit actions.

What happens after spotting problems in the workplace? Let’s examine post-visit actions that pave the way for effective problem resolution.

Post-Visit Actions

Going to the gemba can be quite revelatory, and it’s essential to ensure that insights gained are not wasted. Post-visit actions can help ensure proper utilization of collected data. A suitable action would be setting up a feedback mechanism that allows for constant improvement based on past observations. This ensures accountability and consistent growth towards achieving set objectives.

How to Implement Gemba Findings

Implementation is arguably the most critical aspect when it comes to any improvement strategy. The following steps could guide you on how to go about implementing gemba findings:

  • Establish Improvement Objectives: It’s essential to create clear objectives that address specific areas that require improvement.
  • Create an Action Plan: Based on established objectives, identify the resources needed and timeline required in implementing changes.
  • Enforce Accountability: Assign roles and responsibilities starting from executive levels down to teams involved in actualizing the objective.
  • Continuous Improvement: To ensure successful implementation, plan frequent follow-ups both formally and informally.

It’s also prudent to include stakeholder feedback mechanisms during every step of implementation as different perspectives can lead to effective execution.

For instance, if you observed repeated incidences of machine breakdowns resulting in production delays, an actionable solution would be regular machine maintenance by trained technicians or acquiring newer equipment.

Once all actions are fully implemented, evaluate performance by conducting validation tests that assess whether implementation has resulted in enhanced quality control procedures.


Additional Resources