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Gemba Kaizen

With the resources being scarce in Japan, the absolute use of the materials became the need of the hour. The Japanese developed many techniques and philosophies to ensure the maximum utilisation of the available resources. Gemba Kaizen is one such philosophy developed with the aim to assuring continuous improvement in the work place.

The word “Gemba” means “on the spot” and “Kaizen” means “improvement”. Coming down to the “area” which adds value to the customer –the shop floor – is inevitable to understand the existing system, its flaws, identifying the areas and ways of improvement, and the means of successful introduction of the same to guarantee customer satisfaction. This philosophy believes that the existing system of production can be improved if it is broken down into smaller fragments and each segment is analysed to find alternate means for improvement. They realise the fact that the people working on the shop floor have more knowledge on the effectiveness of the newly suggested technique.

Detection and the removal of the wastage on the shop floor is one way of guaranteeing continuous betterment. 5S system of management can be adopted to spot out the waste in the system. Waste can be defined as any process which does not add value to the customer. 5S includes seiri, seiton, seiso, seiketsu, and shitsuke meaning sort, set in order, shine, standardize, and sustain. Sorting removes unwanted processes and tools that do not contribute to the production. Any non-value activity which adds to the cost of a product or service is termed as ‘muda’. Overproduction, stock-in-progress, idle time, defective transportation of materials, unnecessary movement to perform a task, all add to muda. Gemba Kaizen to be effective expects one to go to the gemba, recognise muda and take measures for its elimination.

To eliminate the muda, everything must have a place, and everything must be in the right place which reveals unwanted items. To make sure that everything is its place, the employees have to clean their surroundings at the end of each day’s activities. This facilitates easy retrieval of tools without the loss of time and unnecessary movements. The changes incorporated must be standardised and it should be followed within the shop floor until it becomes part of the normal routine. Once the transition gets dissolved into the system, the next step is the detection of further improvements that can be added to the system.

Introduction of the new might require the removal of the old and changes to the existing ones for its implementation. The support of the employees is a prerequisite for its success. The work force is the guiding force behind the improvements. They review the existing work standards and then pin point the areas that require the transition. Once the scope for Kaizen has been analysed the next step is its introduction into the processes and its review to analyse its impact on the demands put forward by the customer. If found ineffective, the experts might have to bring about more changes into the system. Thus the process of gemba kaizen is an ongoing process if it is to fetch productive results in the entity.

The biggest disadvantage is that the employees might be resistant to changes. Their unwillingness to adopt a new idea into their activities leads to the failure of this philosophy. But with proper training if the perspective to the change is modified gemba kaizen can be a highly successful tool in the hands of the management. 

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