Looking For Production Improvements – Then Do A Gemba Walk!

I recently went for a Gemba Walk with Ann Machan,  General Manager of Pentair. Instead of doing ordinary daily production meetings, their walk does everything you can do in a boardroom, plus so much more.

What is a Gemba Walk?


We met in her office and were explained the KPI (Key Performance Indicators) for the operation of the plant. Each of these KPI’s posted at each department where the work happens and is on a large whiteboard.

The walk each morning starts at the shipping office with the rest of the staff. They have a good relationship in which information can flow freely. The operator in shipping discusses how their department has done in the last 24 hours about the KPI. Questions are raised about the next 24 hours and possible issues. Before we left this department, Ann asked a few personal questions to the shipper. He answers, and they start to laugh.

The walk continues by splitting up the group into three different teams to cover the entire plant. We went to three additional departments where again, we were shown the KPIs and how they related to the department. Notes were taken, and questions about possible issues and current problems were asked. Information was exchanged from the previous day’s concern with the solution for one that was to be implemented that afternoon.footprints

We assembled back all together in a central location in the plant. A large board with people’s names (Responsible for Department) was listed on the left side, and twenty-one numbers were written on the top representing three weeks. They were on the current week, followed by the next two weeks. They then discussed the walk and the issues raised in this grid pattern. To the right of the board, a chart was placed. This chart contains the number of problems/issues solved for each department and company. A graph was also displayed showing the growing trend. Underneath this chart was the KPI charts showing sustained or improved performance.

We started with the previous days’ issues under yesterday’s date. A status update was given, and the posted note was moved to either the completion clip at the side or under a future date. When this was complete, a representative of each of the three groups when through their list of issues. These were then assigned and placed on the board. Problems that required additional investigation were discussed briefly, and then the five why the process were given to the person with the most significant knowledge.

This whole process took about one hour. The Gemba walk accomplished the following:

  • Everyone’s understanding of the current company situation based on the KPIs
  • Everyone knows precisely what is expected
  • Everyone takes pride and knows they are doing a good job
  • Everyone knows someone is there to help

I found the whole experience of the Gemba walks fascinating. It is the only way I see that you can have clear lines of communication with all staff. How to grow as a company is to learn from our workers; in turn, we will teach them. It was an opportunity to:

  • See the work being done
  • Experiment with ideas
  • Learn from all parties involved
  • Explain why things are this / that way
  • Watch what is being done

Take your Gemba walk on your production floor. Let me know how it turns out.

If you have any questions or need further information, please get in touch with me.
Thank you,

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