What Does Gemba Walk Mean?
A Gemba walk is a safety management practice that is used in manufacturing industries to drive efficiency. Executives or managers conduct Gemba walks by moving throughout the manufacturing floor to observe the manufacturing process and gain information from employees. The purpose of the walk is to identify opportunities to reduce wasteful activities and discover other avenues to improve productivity.
Gemba walks are used as part of Lean and Six Sigma management methodologies, both of which emphasize the need for a high level of worker safety as an element of productivity. The lean methodology places a particular emphasis on the use of “lean safety Gemba walks” as a tool for increasing safety in this manner.
Safeopedia Explains Gemba Walk
The word “Gemba” is a Japanese loanword that originally meant “the real place.” In the context of manufacturing, the manufacturing floor is the real place. Gemba walks, like many elements of lean manufacturing methodologies, were developed by Toyota executives as part of that company’s approach to continuous improvement (the Toyota Production System).
Gemba safety walks can be compared to traditional safety walks, which are a form of safety audit in which management tours the safety floor to monitor for compliance violations. Gemba walks differ from this approach in that they do not focus on compliance but instead focus on understanding the procedures taking place on the manufacturing floor to identify potential areas for safety improvement.
In addition to its observational elements, Gemba walks also stress engagement with employees on the manufacturing floor. The purpose of these questions is not simply to gather information but to allow the executive to talk directly with employees about the elements of workplace safety that the employees feel are most important. This can involve the employee voicing a concern about safety risk or offering an idea for improving existing safety processes. Proponents of the safety Gemba walk system believe that this strategy will increase employee buy-in to workplace safety, improve morale, and assist in the development of a workplace safety culture.