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Laurel Thoennes @ Quality Digest

FDA Compliance

QualiPedia: Gemba

The place to be

Published: Tuesday, September 1, 2009 - 12:56

Gemba is a Japanese term that has been translated as: place, real place, actual place. Westerners have further defined gemba to include: where the action is, the go-and-see place, where the work is done, the place to go for improvement, and the place where value is added, and more. 

The environment in which the word is used determines the gemba. For a detective, gemba is the crime scene; for a fisherman, gemba is the net in the sea; for a production supervisor, gemba is the factory floor. 

In any culture or environment, gemba concerns activities that are value adding and nonvalue adding; to discern the value one must see what is happening firsthand and “walk the gemba” or “go to gemba first.” 

The “father of kaizen,” Masaaki Imai, wrote in his book, Gemba Kaizen: A Commonsense, Low-Cost Approach to Management (McGraw-Hill, 1997):

“As a matter of routine, managers and supervisors should immediately go to the site and stand in one spot attentively observing what goes on. After developing the habit of going to the gemba, the manager will develop the confidence to use the habit to solve specific problems. 

“In reality, about 90 percent of all problems in gemba can be solved right away if the managers see the problem and insist that it be addressed on the spot. 

“One of the most useful tools for finding the root cause in gemba is to keep asking ‘Why?’ until the root cause is reached. This process is sometimes referred to as the 5 Whys since chances are that asking ‘Why?’ five times will uncover the root cause.” 

Do a search for gemba on the Internet and find that many quality tools and methods tie in with gemba, such as: kaizen, 5 Whys, 5S, just in time (JIT), kanban, muda, lean, etc., for these tools employed on the gemba walk create success and continuous improvement. 









About The Author

Laurel Thoennes @ Quality Digest’s picture

Laurel Thoennes @ Quality Digest

Laurel Thoennes is an editor at Quality Digest. She has worked in the media industry for 33 years at newspapers, magazines, and UC Davis—the past 25 years with Quality Digest.