Go 2 Gemba!

Have you ever tried resolving a manufacturing issue with quality? Did you do it from behind your office desk and calling up the manufacturing supervisor? Did you both agree on a cause within 5 minutes, put a solution in place within 2 days? How soon did that problem rear its ugly head again? A week, a month, a quarter?

I was just like you once. Made a lot of assumptions; the stupidest one being that I could solve problems from behind my desk. And none of them were every truly resolved for more than a few weeks.

Then, in 2006 I was introduced to Lean Manufacturing and the concept of “Gemba” or “Genchi Genbutsu”. And it changed my world forever.

Gemba is a Japanese term meaning “the real place”. For example, Japanese police could refer to a crime scene as gemba, or a TV reporter could say they were reporting live at the gemba. In a business context, it refers to “the place were work happens” or “the place where value is created”. For ex: the shop floor, or the factory floor, the R&D Lab etc.

In lean manufacturing, senior coaches or sensei’s will always insist that one goes to the place where work is being done to observe what is happening for oneself. Sometimes, they will use the term “genchi genbutsu” (literally translated to “real location, real thing”) or more commonly “go and see”.

It suggests that in order to truly understand a situation, one needs to observe what is happening at the site where work actually takes place.

Once I learned this, I made it a point to get out of my office and spend as much time on the factory floor (the gemba) as I could. I would speak to shop floor operators, supervisors, material handlers etc and would be able to collect factual data and solve quality problems with corrective actions that prevented recurrence. This inspired me to “Go and See, Ask Why & Show Respect” and I’ve found this approach has held true and steady through the years.

This is what inspired me to start 2Gemba.

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