Gemba Reveals Waste

Gemba reveals wasteWith a number of Lean tools at your disposal, it’s important to find the ones that work for your facility. Let’s consider how Gemba, a concept that comes from Lean manufacturing, relates to other Lean ideas. Lean aims to identify and eliminate waste from work processes, ultimately making operations more efficient and less costly while boosting productivity.

Waste: Lean

Gemba walks fit in well with this mindset, since they are a helpful tool that managers can use to identify waste in the workplace. Lean focuses on reducing certain types of waste such as over-production, time spent waiting, defects, and unnecessary motion. Not all Gemba walks must focus on waste, but they can if that will be useful for you.

Before taking a Gemba walk, you will want to choose the focus of your work. If you are looking for waste in the production system, consider walking the entire process from the moment an order is placed to when it is shipped out for delivery. Observe the different manufacturing process and look for wasteful activities or areas that are not operating smoothly. It can be beneficial to talk with frontline workers and ask for what they see to be wasteful and their suggestions for improvement.

Waste: Muda, Mura, Muri

The concepts of muda, mura, and muri are another lens through which you can look
for waste in your facility while on a Gemba walk. These terms refer to specific types of imbalances that indicate there could be a problem with your processes. These wastes, defined as three categories of waste in the Toyota Production System, were defined by Taiichi Ohno, the father of TPS. You want to have the right number of workers handling the right amount of materials to make the appropriate number of products to meet demand and producing in an efficient manner; muda, mura, and muri can help you achieve this.


Kaizen, a concept sometimes referred to as “continuous improvement,” involves looking for small ways to change the workplace for the better. Kaizen can be used by employees in all levels of an organization and it creates a culture where employees feel comfortable suggesting change. As a manager, when you approach a Gemba walk it’s a good idea to do so with a kaizen mindset. Look for small changes that could help improve processes and be open to suggestions from employees. Frontline operators are the experts and should be trained in identifying areas of waste, so their suggestions can be extremely valuable.

Your Lean Culture

Gemba walks often help strengthen a workplace’s lean culture. Workers see managers out in the workplace, they have an opportunity to discuss their work, and they feel valued. Employees that feel valued will likely perform higher quality work, which will end up creating a better end product for your customers. It can ensure your production line is efficient, boost workers’ productivity, and benefit the quality of your products or service.


Additional Resources