A virtual gemba walk enables you to perform gemba walks virtually so that it easily integrates into your daily manufacturing tasks and activities. 

Before we get into the five benefits of using a virtual gemba walk, allow us to first explain what a gemba walk is, and how it differs from a virtual gemba walk.

What is Gemba Walk?

Gemba is a Japanese word that means “the real place”. In manufacturing, gemba is the shop floor — the “real place where manufacturing is completed”. So, a gemba walk is a tour of the shop floor. That is to say, “gemba walk” is a theory and practice that brings managers and leaders to the shop floor to observe production processes as they happen. For example, managers and leaders observe frontline workers, ask them about their tasks, and communally explore ideas for continuous improvement.

Traditional Gemba Walk vs Virtual Gemba Walk

Steps that visually explain the traditional gemba walk vs virtual gemba walk
Traditional Gemba walk

Traditionally, gemba walks are performed by managers and leaders using pen and paper. To clarify, a checklist is created on paper then a pen is used to track the progress as they tour the shop floor. But, occasionally, they will use an Excel spreadsheet to gather statistics and analyze data from identified issues and their resolutions. In short, traditional gemba walks are a wasteful activity. This is because once an issue has been identified during a gemba walk, a manager or leader needs to take quick action. But, they’ll need to figure out:

  • — How to efficiently transfer an issue and its relevant information to the correct person
  • — How they can log it as an opportunity for improvement
  • — How they can effectively share relevant information in a meeting, and
  • — How they can follow-up with the issue that has been assigned to someone
Virtual Gemba Walk

When it comes to the governing principles, performing a virtual gemba walk is no different than performing a traditional gemba walk. Essentially, all a virtual gemba walk does is digitizes the traditional gemba walk process. That is to say, a virtual gemba walk efficiently documents issues with a cloud-based application.

4 Benefits of a Virtual Gemba Walk

1. Identify problems in real-time

Manufacturing plants and factories that don’t leverage innovative softwares and applications often have a lot of problems that go unreported. Consequently, frontline workers just learn to live with them. This results in bottlenecks, affects costs, and creates quality issues. By performing your gemba walks virtually, managers, leaders, and frontline workers can address both big and small issues. This is done by using their mobile devices to tag equipment and attach images and videos to further highlight, and clearly show what the problem is and where it is located. What’s more, because a virtual gemba walk makes it easy for workers to capture problems, they are more likely to be proactive and share their observations before a small issue becomes a big problem. 

2. Efficiently solve problems

Traditionally, solving shop floor problems often requires a lot of administrative time and effort. Once a problem was identified, you had to go inspect the problem yourself. But, by using a virtual gemba walk, users can capture a problem with photos and videos right in the app. So, this enables you to visualize the problem, and the problem area, anywhere you are, at any time.

3. Communicate and collaborate in real-time

Digital communication makes it easier for you to empower your workers to communicate and collaborate with each other whenever and wherever they are. As a result, this boosts employee engagement and productivity. By utilizing a virtual gemba walk, your workers don’t need to wait until meetings to communicate information. The app’s digital communication abilities allows all users to share instant feedback, in real-time.

4. Document solutions into a centralized knowledge base

Once a problem has been solved, and if it’s a recurring one, you can easily turn it into a troubleshooting solution, if approved. All solutions and relevant documents are located under one central hub and can be easily accessed on any device.

Virtually Tour Your Shop Floor With TheLeanSuite

TheLeanSuite is an all-in-one cloud-based lean manufacturing software that offers solutions designed to support and enhance your daily manufacturing operational activities. One of them being the Gemba Walker. Instead of coordinating schedules and assigning a period of time dedicated to performing an actual gemba walk, gemba activities can be digitally integrated into your everyday operations.