I recently went for a Gemba Walk with Ann Machan, General Manager of Pentair. Instead of doing normal 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 are posted at each department where the work happens and are on a large whiteboard.
The walk each morning starts at the shipping office with the rest of the staff. The operator in shipping discusses how their department has done in the last 24 hours in relation to the KPI. Questions are raised about the next 24 hours and possible issues. Before we leave this department Ann asks a few personal questions to the shipper. He answers and they start to laugh. It is obvious that they have a good relationship in which information can flow freely.
Splitting up the group into three different teams to cover the entire plant, the walk continues. 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 asked about possible issues and current problems. Information was exchanged from the previous days’ problem with the solution for one that was to be implemented that afternoon.
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. The current week that they were on, followed by the next two weeks. This grid pattern was where they then discussed the walk and the issues raised. To the right of the board, a chart was placed. This chart contained the total number of problems/issues solved for each department and total company. A graph was also displayed showing the growing trend. Underneath this chart was the KPI charts that all showed either sustained or improved performance.
We started with the previous days’ issues under yesterdays date. A status update was given and the posted note was moved to either the completion clip at the side or put 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 5 why the process was assigned to the person who had the greatest knowledge.
This whole process took about one hour. The Gemba walk accomplished the following:
- Everyone’s understanding of the current company situation based upon the KPIs
- Everyone knows exactly what is expected
- Everyone taking pride and knowing they are doing a good job
- Everyone knowing someone is there to help
I found the whole experience of the Gemba walks fascinating. It is the only way that I see that you can have clear lines of communication to all staff. The way in which to grow as a company is to learn from our workers and 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 own Gemba walk on your production floor. Let me know how it turns out.
If you have any questions or need further information please contact me.
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