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How to Gain Real-Time Visibility of the Factory Floor And Why the Traditional Gemba Walk Is Dead

Management‐by‐walking‐around (MBWA) or the so-called “Gemba” walk is a widely adopted management technique in manufacturing as well as in other environments with a lot of frontline workers.

Get out on the floor
The idea behind Gemba is that people can’t solve manufacturing problems from their desk or a conference room: you have to get out on the floor to see what’s actually happening. Talk to the people who do the value-added work on the shop floor. They’re the ones managers are most dependent on to improve processes and efficiency. Then act on their ideas and implement changes. On a return, visit follow up with them to see if things have improved. Eat. Sleep. Repeat.

The traditional Gemba walk is dead
Over time, in theory, anyway, factory workers will become more engaged in suggesting and making changes. Productivity shall be improved and waste, in all its forms, will be reduced and manufacturing will become leaner and more efficient. However, a recent Harvard study pointed out that the traditional Gemba walk is dead: according to the researchers, they may actually do more harm than good if not executed properly. In a conclusion that might surprise everyone except those who actually work on the factory floor, the research suggested that “senior managers’ physical presence on their organizations’ frontlines is not helpful” …

If changes aren’t implemented, operator engagement wanes quickly
The Harvard researchers discovered that the problem was not the Gemba walk itself but the type of improvement action it led to. Management typically likes to address high-value issues or improvements. For example, installing or replacing a machine or production line may take up months, sometimes even years to complete. Operators have no say in this and since such projects take a long time, their short- to medium term work conditions don’t change. The researchers found that small-scale and fast-to-implement improvements contribute most to operator productivity and engagement. Manufacturers typically underestimate the impact of a small change and often forget that operator enthusiasm plays a large part in that. Also, manufacturers often don’t have the right tools in place to track and implement changes properly. Factory workers that are consulted during the Gemba walk will contribute ideas, but if these aren’t implemented and nothing changes, enthusiasm will wane quickly.

The right digital tool to connect your frontline workforce can help
However, what if you had a digital tool that could make Gemba walk more successfully and stimulate operator interest to suggest improvements? This might sound fancy, but a mobile app such as Yoho could make it practical.

Before adopting Yoho, a global manufacturer of Infant Milk Formula reviewed and approved improvement ideas only during their monthly meetings. Things would be put up on a white-board, only to pile up and to be eventually forgotten. Now their production, quality, maintenance and warehouse teams use the live Factory Feed to discuss and solve problems in real-time. And whenever a team or individual runs into a problem, they can immediately create a task and allocate this to the appropriate person.

Solve problems faster and in real-time
With Yoho, they can identify new ideas and solve problems 80% faster than before, resulting in shorter downtime periods and up to a 10% increase in OEE. And because operators can make their voice count they feel more engaged than ever before.

Continuous improvement is a priority for all manufacturers. Even a small improvement in waste, downtime, or quality can represent significant savings and a competitive edge. Unfortunately, traditional Gemba walks don’t always work as intended. Reasons include the walk being only a snapshot of what’s happening and a failure to act on suggested changes by operators which discourages them from making further contributions in the future.

Enable workers to provide input continuously and whenever they want
The solution is to introduce a mobile tool such as Yoho so operators can give feedback on work processes and provide opportunities for improvement whenever they want or whenever a problem occurs. This enables and encourages worker participation in factory improvements. The results speak for themselves. With a mobile-first tool such as Yoho you can:

  • Connect workers using smartphones or tablets
  • Capture front-line input and feedback continuously
  • Analyze and prioritize ideas for continuous improvement
  • Keep everyone on the same page and avoid miscommunication

Thanks to a connected workforce, Yoho helps manufacturing companies to solve problems faster and in real-time, resulting in improved operator productivity, fewer mistakes, and a higher OEE. Request a demo if you want to experience how we can help you save money with a connected workforce!

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