Many of us continue working in manufacturing facilities deemed essential during the COVID-19 pandemic. This unforeseen event creates unique challenges that most of us have not experienced, or even thought about, in our entire careers. In this unprecedented time, the principles of Lean can easily take a back seat, but organizations will benefit by practicing Lean now more than ever.
Virtual Gemba During Social Distancing - Social distancing for Process Technology manufacturing means face-to-face meetings are now canceled in favor of virtual meetings. Pre-pandemic, Process Technology employed the Lean practices of Gemba walks. Gemba is a Japanese word meaning “the actual place.” So the challenge then became how to Gemba within the confines of social distancing. At first, the team members at Process Technology individually walked the floor and observed the boards. Unfortunately, this method was not proving as effective—and after a few weeks, it ceased happening at all. With a desire to recapture the success of our pre-pandemic Gemba walks, Director of Operations, Bob Dragolic, worked with our Continuous Improvement Manager, Jared Lawrence, to find an effective solution. Together they initiated a video conferencing process that Process Technology now refers to as Virtual Gemba. Every morning, Jared captures images of Gemba boards throughout the plant. Later, during a video conference meeting, each department presents its board information to the Gemba team for review and discussion.
Virtual Gemba has proven very beneficial to our organization. It allows for real-time conversation with people working from home about issues within the plant—it also exemplifies how important lean is to our overall success. “We continue to listen to our people and their ideas. People working from home feel more connected to the plant they normally work in. It reinforces a sense of team and unity.” Bob Dragolic states. “Virtual Gemba is one new practice we will implement going forward in all our remote facilities to enable larger participation.”
If you have stopped your Gemba, try a virtual one. Your team will appreciate it.
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