Just been to Toyota….yes I know their cars don’t stop very well and they are pig ugly to look at, but the GT86 is cool….anyway the latest thing to do is GEMBA walks, so I’m going to do one.
Right I’ve been Operations Manager here for 11.5 years next June so its probably time I went out and had a look, I usually pull the boys in once a week for a meeting…..keeps me up to speed and allows me to let off a bit of steam before the weekend.
So “safety first” lets doll up for the walk around, let’s see I need my safety boots, high vis coat, safety glasses and hard hat. Blimey these boots are a bit stiff and the high vis must have shrunk in the last 11.5 years. Still off we go warehouse first I think.
Great to be outside – I’m sick of being in stuck in that office all day, just wish those contractors would stop whistling the Laurel and Hardy Theme Tune – don’t they know anything else!
Ok here’s the warehouse
“Steve show me around I’m here to do a Gemba Walk”
Steve runs the warehouse – great bloke no trouble with him
“Hello boss, don’t see you often. What’s one of them Gemba walks then? Love the boots by the way and we have a spare XL high vis if you want one”
“I’m fine thanks Steve, always been a medium, keep myself in trim you know – walk the dog for 2 hours every Sunday before going to the pub”
“Ok boss, lets Gemba walk then, do you put your left foot in, or your right foot in?
“Stop taking the ‘mickey’ Steve and let’s just go the point of activity”
“Ok boss ….the point of activity ….all sounding a bit Star Trek to me….we boldly go where no Operations Manager has been before”
We open the door to the warehouse and I observe 3 guys putting on their hard hats, two Daily Mirrors disappearing underneath the desk, the football being put in the oil spill kit and as if by magic the three packing machines start up and two radios are switched off.
Steve turns proudly to me and says:
“You really got them in that disguise – they thought for a minute you were the customer!”
“Is ok lads it’s only the Boss – stand easy – we are Gemba walking”
“So then Boss what do we do on this Gemba walk?”
“We visit the point of activity and use the 5 key kata coaching questions to help stimulate improvement”
“Kata coaching, that will have to be Andy, he’s loves a bit of Judo, up the sports centre every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday, trouble is boss ….he is on afternoons”
My patience is starting to go here:
“Steve, Kata coaching and Gemba walking are the “in thing” and we need to do this, I saw it in Toyota on Tuesday…..and before you say it, I know Toyotas can’t stop and they are pig ugly”
“Watch and listen to the master”
I call over one of the operators:
“Hello mate what’s your name then?”
“Hello, I am Pavel from Krakow, I live with my girlfriend in a house in the village, who are you then mate?”
“I am your Operations Manager and I am Gemba walking, what is your target condition?”
“Excuse me Mr Operations, I do not understand”
“Ok then Pavel, What are you trying to achieve?”
“Ah I see Mr Operations, to make a good life for me and girlfriend”
“Not quite the answer I’m looking for Pavel, let me ask you another question. What obstacles are preventing you from doing your job and what PDCA process are you using to resolve them?
“Ok Mr Operations, I do what Steve tells me, obstacles are people asking me to leave work station to answer questions.”
“Thanks for that Pavel, one last question then Pavel, what have you learned?”
“Ah that’s easy…..Don’t mess with Andy on afternoons, hide the Daily Mirrors, turn off the radio, put the football on the oil spill kit and put on your hard hats when customers come in”
I turn to Steve and he smiles at me saying:
“All the boys are fully trained up…just like Pavel here, we run a very tight ship here”
I turn away and leave the warehouse, I cannot see the value in visiting any other areas of the plant. On the way back to my office I think through the value of Gemba walks and Kata coaching, I’m not really sure it’s for us if I’m honest and besides, these boots are starting to give me blisters! Back to normality I think and one of Clare’s coffees, with a few custard creams. I have reports to write and spread sheets to update…real manager’s work!