Gemba meaning

Gemba (現場) is a japanese term meaning "the actual place". Reporters frequently refer to live coverage from the crime scene as reporting on gemba. 

Generally, gemba refers to the location where value is created. In manufacturing, the gemba refers to the factory floor, while in construction it refers to the building site. Production workers create value, and managers ensure that it flows to stakeholders properly. Waste activities harm value from flowing, examples include non-utilized resources, waiting activities, overproduction, and motion. To better understand current conditions and bridge the gap between management and workers, the first step of the Gemba process is to be aware of what's going on in the field through first-hand perspectives.

What is a Gemba Walk?

In the lean approach, a gemba environment is one in which problems with a business process or production line are often easily visible, and by visiting 'the real place' where managers can see the process for themselves is the best way to improve it.

  1. Go and observe
  2. Ask why 
  3. Show respect

During Gemba Walks, supervisors and managers can observe processes and analyze the results. Additionally, it should encourage greater communication, transparency and trust between workers and managers, which is a crucial component of Kaizen methodology. Therefore, it is not useful to use a Gemba walk to point out an individual's fault, or to enforce policy by evaluating your team’s performance, as that can lead to the risk of workers refusing to engage with the management and putting barriers to progress.

Improving visibility through Real-Time performance tracking

Process visibility is critical to achieve improvement. Traditionally, Managers had to require pulling information from different stakeholders, then analyze it manually and decide on the best way to handle it, usually when it’s too late. Since construction sites contain many locations that are constantly changing and have many "active" production floors, managers had difficulty focusing on the most relevant locations for their gemba walks. Data shows that a manager visits 53 locations on a regular gemba walk, of which only 17 were active that day.

Through IoT connectivity, construction apps, and analytics dashboards, managers can be augmented with the latest information automatically collected and analyzed to bring visibility to their processes. Once a manager walks into the busiest location, he can look at all the relevant  operations that are carried out, resource locations, and base his actions on more accurate information. Some of these actions include: which trends contribute to longer working time, is the poorly designed work area causing additional foot traffic, is rework taking place, and are there damaged materials or punch list items that need to be repaired, replaced, or redone.

Learn more about our Unit level Supervision: visit the most active areas with Genda.

5 Steps for a Successful Site Walk in Construction

  1. Describe why you believe the topic should be addressed. A question that promotes synergistic congruence (aka win-win) between tasks. Some possible questions are: 
  • It appears that we may have wasted WIP in and around our field areas, adding extra time in supplying material to our floors. Let's go take a look at it.
  • I have a suspicion that our space where they store material might be contributing to longer working time because of excess motion. Let's go see what we can find out.
  • Maybe our failure to identify the root cause of waiting time leads to issues we need to solve.
  1. Open Genda and look at the most active areas on site for ‘the actual place’. Expect the best, plan for the worst, and prepare to be surprised. Ask if their performance is aligned with the plan, do they understand their job and if they are in the learning phase, or if something is blocking them. We believe that managers shouldn’t sit away in an office and ask for reports, but rather go to “the real place” where value is created.
  2. Observe and take notes while you do the gemba walk through the area or process to support your question. It should encourage the observer to focus on how the actual process is delivering or subtracting value. 
  3. Respect and engage workers by asking questions and suggestions to build trust. Questions like do they know what the next worker needs, if they are getting what they need from the upstream managers.
  4. Share your team and follow up with an action plan and further observations based on what you learned.

Check out this VIDEO: Gemba walk - Drywall installations

Fun fact - Our CEO Erez recommended we name the company Gemba but Eyal misheard, so we called it Genda - which is a short-term for Generating Data - however Gemba is still our core value. Read more about our story