Ever heard of gemba?

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Ever heard of gemba?

Have you ever heard of the word gemba? Well, it’s the new word on the lips of many leaders in the manufacturing, logistics and retail industries who are looking to transform their operations. Faced with a rapidly shifting business landscape, these industries are looking to optimise the flow of information from things and people at their operational fronts. 

The “gemba” is the physical site where these things happen. This Japanese word literally translates to "the actual place". For instance, in supply chain management, the gemba is where things are made, moved, or sold; the site where value is generated and problems confronted. The factory floor, the warehouse, or points-of-sale; these are all referred to as the gemba. 

As organisations explore ways to adapt and improve their businesses, looking at the experiences of others can be useful. In Japan, Gemba Process Innovation is being used to radically review, redesign and reinvent operations using technology to increase efficiencies and free-up creative potential.

Much like the business philosophy of Kaizen that came before it, Gemba Process Innovation is now beginning to influence and benefit European businesses. But rather than small, incremental continuous improvements that were inspired by Kaizen, Gemba Process Innovation takes a more innovative approach. It combines an in-depth understanding of the organisation and of the latest available technologies to deliver new methods of working.

Panasonic has brought Gemba Process Innovation to Europe. The results are already impressive. At one of the world’s largest logistics companies, it has introduced a Visual Sort Assist technology solution to increase staff productivity, sorting capacity and efficiency and reduce the need for staff training. The solution combined scanning technology and projection to speed up the process of sorting parcels. By using technology to automatically scan the parcel label on the conveyor belt and projecting a large visual delivery number onto the parcel, workers can easily pick up the parcel and place it in the correct delivery area without having to read each delivery address in detail.

In manufacturing, a leading Italian leather and fabric processor worked with Panasonic and its Gemba Process Innovation team to automate and improve its processes. With more than 50 different leather shapes required to make an artisan Italian leather shoe, cutting time and efficient use of materials is an important commercial factor. Following the introduction of a new automated cutting solution, the results were savings of up to 7% in raw material waste and reductions in cutting time from up to 8 minutes per job to just 30 seconds.

These types of tangible result are the reason why gemba and, in particular Gemba Process Innovation, is a word starting to be rapidly recognised in European businesses.  It’s an approach that has the potential to help companies address the massive disruption they are seeing at production sites and supply chains triggered by a whole range of emerging trends and technologies. Social trends such as worker shortages and lifestyle changes; environmental trends such as new infectious diseases; and technological advances such as artificial intelligence, intelligent edge devices, and the explosion of e-commerce. 

You may never have heard of gemba before today, but trust me, it’s a word that has the potential to change many European businesses in the coming years.

Read our whitepaper on Gemba Process Innovation.

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