Performing an Effective Gemba Walk

In our last article, we covered the basic differences between a Gemba Walk and Management By Walking Around.1_xtreme1_2 What is most different is the latter takes a structured approach and an intent to identify opportunities to implement lean strategies. One piece of this model is the Gemba Walk Evaluation Sheet.

Depending on the manager doing the walk and the intent of the activity, the evaluation sheet will vary. Only you know what process along the value stream needs to be walked, and what is most important within that. Everyone doing the walk should be familiar with lean concepts, though, to get the most out of it.

To figure out what needs to go on your evaluation sheet, we are taking advice from this The Leadership Network article. It gives examples of two different evaluation sheets. The first is for someone in a lower-level manager role, like a team lead. Remember, this person would be doing a walk about every week. The article suggests something that looks like:

  1. Process step number. (Name the step)
  2. Description of the action or step. (Explain what is actually happening in this step)
  3. Primary role of responsibility. (Identify the person/s responsible for completing the step)
  4. Process added time. (Document the average time it takes to complete the entire task from start to finish)
  5. Process added time. (Completed after the walk. Note the “total time taken to add value to the item that changes the fit, form and the function of the item.”)
  6. Distance traveled. (Exactly what it sounds like.)
  7. Time in the queue. (How many items are waiting to be processed during this step, or waiting to be transported away from it?)

Higher-level management would look over the other evaluation sheets and focus specifically on the wastes identified. This walk happens less frequently the higher up the management chain you go. We again refer to the aforementioned article and the example it gives for an upper-level manager:

  1. Waiting. (Are there any tasks that can be completed simultaneously rather than sequentially? Are there tools that can help employees be productive during waiting times?)
  2. Transportation. (Can any of the processes be automated to free up manpower?)
  3. The processing itself. (Can you combine or eliminate any of the tasks?)
  4. Motion. (What kind of technology could be added to help speed up the process?)
  5. Poor quality. (Where are the opportunities to eliminate costly mistakes?)
  6. Inventory. (Do you need WIP inventory, or could you get rid of it?)
  7. Over-production. (Is it possible to produce to order, or is producing to inventory necessary?)

Both of these lists give you an idea of how each manager would focus differently during a Gemba Walk. By changing the intent of the walk as it moves up the management hierarchy, you’re uncovering more opportunities to improve, and eliminating wasteful overlap in objectives.

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