A Gemba Walk Example
This is from a blog reader, Mike, in response to an earlier question about the role of senior leadership in a Lean effort. I’m posting this with Mike’s permission to get your feedback and comments.
In our facility, the most senior person with an office here is a Vice President. He takes the walk every morning at 9:00am (he will miss some now and then if he’s on a customer call, out of the office, or has activities led by our Corporate office – located in another state). He is joined on the walk by our Manufacturing Manager, National Sales Director (when in-house), Inside Sales Manager, Production Managers of the Lean areas (that we have started to-date), Shipping Manager, Production Planner, Purchasing Manager, HR Manager, and the in-house Lean group. If someone is unavailable, he or she will send a representative. While this may sound cumbersome, it is a prime opportunity to have all the people necessary if there is a problem.
Each stop on the walk is centered around a “production” board. The walk starts in Sales, proceeds to Shipping, then one Assembly cell, one Product Line cell, followed by a Kaizen board, the Scheduling board, and concluding with the Purchasing board. If any discussion at a board lasts longer than 3 minutes, the group assigns someone responsible to coordinate a meeting/initiate a review of the issue. All parts of the organization are in the loop and all can provide input to issues as they arise, rather than after the fact. Operators at each location participate and all discussion is as equals. As the Lean Coordinator in the plant, I act as “referee” concerning the time spent and the equal opportunity of the discussion.
As a result, our direct lines of communication have increased immensely. That “soft” value is immeasurable. When we have customers or Corporate dignitaries in, we still follow the same routine. Our customers are often impressed with the ability of anyone on the walk being able to describe the situation at any board (that knowledge is shared via simple metric presentations at the boards, consistent themes from board to board, and regular involvement of everyone to truly understand the flow of products and information.) This walk happens regardless of who is absent. Those available just move forward.
Is this unique or common? Would other companies shudder at the dollar value of salaries involved in this 25 minute exercise daily? Is this “wasteful” in the eyes of others? I can tell from experience, the impact this has on the plant is significant – as described in my response to the reader question about Plant Management participation in the Gemba.
What feedback or advice do you have for Mike and his company? Click “comments” to chime in.