Today’s post tells the origin story of a popular module in The Lean Office – Gemba Walks!
The idea for our Gemba Walks module came from conversation with a Supply Chain Vice President who works in a distribution environment. He explained in detail his normal process for conducting gemba walks, and we agreed that it made sense to add a software tool to help solve some of the problems he faced. His normal process was to walk the floor of his warehouse every day, and look for problems. When he found one, he would take a picture on his phone. When I asked about the need for pictures, he said, “nothing tells a story better than a picture.” After the walk was over, he would email all of the pictures from his morning walk to himself (to transfer them to his computer), and then sit down at his desk to write out an email to his team. The email he sent to his team included observations he had made on the walk, along with suggested actions to be taken by the team. The pictures were then attached to this email, and the email was sent out. He also followed up on the email by reviewing it with his managers during the morning stand-up. During our conversation, several improvement opportunities emerged:
- Observation notes – During the walk, he would have to write down observations on a note pad to be referenced later. While the pictures were helpful, they weren’t always self-explanatory.
- Picture transfer – It was a clunky process to transfer pictures from the phone to computer via email, only to be emailed back out to the team.
- Action item follow-up – Other than the morning stand-up, there wasn’t a tool for capturing action items. Adding a separate register for gemba walks felt like a waste, as he was already recording information in notes and email. Because of this, he also noted that many action items would carry over from one day to another, as the changes had not been implemented.
- Managing old walks – Other than referring to old emails, there was no way for the team to look back on old gemba walks for reference.
- Process time – For someone trying to balance an active schedule (and plenty already on his plate), the Supply Chain VP didn’t really have time to complete gemba walks. But he thought they were important, and was trying to help his management team see the value in “going to the gemba“. Anything that could be done to reduce waste in the process and free up his time would be considered a huge win.
After our conversation, The Lean Office team got to work developing the Gemba Walks module. Keep reading to discover how it helps solve the problems outlined above:
Conducting Gemba Walks
Users of The Lean Office can conduct gemba walks from their smart phone, tablet, or pc. Users are asked to provide an observation, upload (or take) a picture, and add action items directly in the tool. Observations allow users to record what they are seeing in real-time – whether good or bad. Uploaded pictures can also be edited within the tool to add call-outs and arrows. Action items allow the user to assign what needs to be done, who is responsible, and when it is due. The best part? All portions of conducting the gemba walk can be done directly from a user’s phone as the gemba walk is occurring!
Managing Gemba Walks
The front page of the Gemba Walks module allows any user with access to The Lean Office to review old gemba walks and see the status of “open” gemba walks. Gemba walks remain open until all action items tied to the walk have been completed. At a very quick glance, users can understand how long gemba walks are taking to be resolved, and visually note any that are behind schedule on resolution.
Review Gemba Walks
Past Gemba Walks can be reviewed by clicking on the name on the Manage Gemba Walks page. This allows for easy review of existing gemba walks, and reference for past observations. These pages are “living”, in that changes made are immediately visible to other users. If someone wants to check on the status of a gemba walk’s follow-up actions, they can simply visit this page.
Action Item Follow-Up
Speaking of following up on action items from the gemba walk, all action items assigned in the module are immediately visible in the Action Items module for the assigned user(s). The action items are always visible within the event itself, but can also be seen and managed on an individual’s consolidated action item list within The Lean Office. Because all gemba walks are integrated with the Action Items module, you can also reference your list of all consolidated action items instead of having to review each gemba walk individually. Users get an alert any time they have past-due or upcoming action items, so the very act of following up on event action items is now handled automatically.
Thanks to all who continue to provide input on the Gemba Walks module! In the spirit of continuous improvement, we have ideas on additional features to include, but would love your opinion. What other features should we add to the next release in this module of The Lean Office?
The Gemba Walks module is live for all enterprise accounts of The Lean Office. If you have any feedback, we’d love to hear from you.
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