The gemba walk company specializes in manufacturing cleaning and bleach products. The organization’s portfolio comprises brands sold in more than 50 countries and has manufacturing plants in various regions across the globe. In the specific plant where I work, the company has employed 156 employees in its various departments. Due to the nature of its operation, the organization utilizes make to stock (MTS) as its production strategy, whereby it matches inventory with anticipated consumer demand.
Overview of the US Manufacturing Industry
Being the third-largest manufacturer in the world, the US manufacturing industry is a vital sector. Notably, the cleaning and bleach products manufacturing industry in the US is characterized by stiff competition due to the availability of numerous brands in the consumer market. Thus, manufacturing operating in the industry has to ensure that they are always striving to enhance their competitive advantage. A Gemba walk can help organizations gain valuable insight regarding the flow of value and, as a result, identify opportunities for improvements leading to improved competitive edge.
Gemba Walk Observations
Key observations from the Gemba walk is that the manufacturing process is characterized by unplanned downtime, delayed setup times, and idle equipment. Additionally, I noticed large distances between operations and long material handling systems. Apart from these issues, everything else in the manufacturing process appeared to be running smoothly and efficiently. In its efforts to emphasize efficiency, the company implements lean manufacturing, which allows it to minimize waste within the manufacturing systems while maximizing productivity.
Preliminary Analysis of the Gemba Walk Observations
Unplanned downtime, delayed setup times, and idle equipment allude to poor process design. The outcome of this inefficiency is increased wait time (Tiwari, Sadeghi, & Eseonu, 2020). On the other hand, the large distance between operations and long material handling systems point out poor workstation layout. This leads to unnecessary motion, which in turn causes non-value-added time and increased cost (Tiwari, Sadeghi, & Eseonu, 2020). Notably, both waiting and motion cost a company extra money. Thus, there are opportunities for reducing waste in the organization’s manufacturing process. The observations allude to room for workstation layout and process design improvement. Moreover, the company can enhance efficiency in its manufacturing process by minimizing waiting by addressing unplanned downtime, delayed setup times, and idle equipment issues. Streamlining the manufacturing process can help the company decrease the inefficiencies and reduce waste.
Key Takeaways from the Gemba Walk
Key takeaways from the Gemba walk are that by visiting the place where work is done, one can gain valuable insight into the value flow through a company and identify opportunities for improvements. Through this process, one gathers more information about an organization than they can when discussing improvement strategies in boardrooms. By focusing on a company’s operations, listening to employees, and taking time to reflect on what action is needed, one uncovers how well the process is running. With regard to the Gemba walk focusing on my place of work, I realized that the company could enhance efficiency in the manufacturing processes by eliminating wasteful activities occurring at the plant.
The Gemba walk mainly focused on the production department, which the largest department in the plant. The department turns inputs into final goods following a series of processes. I spoke with three individuals at the department, namely the Head of Department, The Production Supervisor, and a Production Officer. The Head of Production manages the organization’s production team; therefore, responsible for ensuring that the manufacturing process runs smoothly and efficiently. The Production Supervisor is responsible for maximizing aggregate production through coordinating employees in the department and enforcing systems, policies, and procedures. As for the Production Officer, he is tasked with creating and maintaining the production process to ensure everything on the production floor is working as per plan and policy. The three individuals proved significantly resourceful to the Gemba walk by providing insightful information regarding the company’s production process.
Learnings from the People Working in Observed Environment
From observing and speaking to the above-identified individuals, I learned that the company is dedicated to implementing lean manufacturing. The organization has a Lean Manager tasked with the responsibility of optimizing the production process. The individual defines the process and products and design production process informed by lean management concepts. Whereas the plant has done a commendable job of minimizing waste in the production process, there is still room for improvement. I also learned that the opportunities for improvement are mainly found where there are handoffs between processes or people. Through following the flow of value, I was able to uncover areas with high potential for waste. Talking with the employees allowed me to discover opportunities that I had missed while observing. I also learned that when one is not purposefully observing an environment to identify issues, they may never uncover improvement opportunities. Notably, I have been working in the company for more than 3 years, and it was until the Gemba walk that I identified the above-highlighted opportunities. Most importantly, one must be at where the value stream is to identify opportunities for improvement.
Composition of the Evaluation/Interview Sheet
- What are you currently working on?
- Is there an established process for this type of work?
- What is the goal we are trying to achieve with the process?
- Do you have any issues with the established process?
- Do you have everything you need for this process?
- Why is there a problem?
- What have you done to identify the root cause?
- How can we do to improve the process?
- Who do you speak with if there is a problem?
Executable Project Ideas
In the short-run, the company can address the waste of waiting caused by unplanned downtime, delayed setup times, and idle equipment. The company can utilize two short-term projects to address the issue. First, it should implement a project focusing on improving process design so that the production process flows efficiently with the minimum waiting time. This will include monitoring tools and machinery to ensure less downtime. The second short-term project should emphasize improving communication practices and reducing employee distractions. If properly implemented, the two projects will improve process design and, as such, eliminate waiting waste.
Regarding the long-run, the company should establish a project focusing on layout improvement. This will involve redefining the production process and rearranging the layout of machinery so that equipment is located strategically. Notably, improving layout entails more than just moving pieces of equipment closer to each other. According to Tiwari, Sadeghi, and Eseonu (2020), it is also about how they are positioned. Moreover, the project will also entail the introduction of automation to eliminate motion waste via packaging systems. Implementation of this project requires a thorough analysis of the entire manufacturing process, followed by strategic planning to ensure that the action plan effectively addresses the issue at hand. Moreover, it requires a considerable budget and volume of work. However, in the long-run, the company will realize value for its effort and investment.
How the Organization is responding to the Project
The organization is responding to the project positively. After explaining to my immediate supervisor the project’s goal, she welcomed the idea and promised to support it. The company is treating the project as an opportunity to identify areas that it can improve to ensure enhanced efficiency. The organization acknowledges that there is always room for improvement and the project promises to provide insightful recommendations regarding how the production department can streamline its manufacturing process. Thus, my employer has been receptive to the project and is looking forward to learning about my findings.