5 Reasons to switch to Virtual Gemba for Operational Excellence

May 19, 2023

Are you looking to step up your operational excellence game? Make sure you take a Virtual Gemba walk. Gemba walks provide a comprehensive insight into an organisation's operations and processes and promote continuous improvement. In lean,  Gemba walk is a common practice to identify waste, inefficiency, and workplace improvement opportunities. 

Understanding the differences between the traditional and virtual approaches to Gemba can give you better insights into why taking a step towards virtual gemba can help you play the game better.

Virtual Gemba walk is the digital approach to Gemba walks, an essential part of Lean management. It is also an excellent way to stay connected with remote team members. Let’s discuss 5 reasons why you should consider making a switch to Virtual Gemba walks:

1. Increased Efficiency

Virtual Gemba walks can be more efficient than traditional ones because they can be conducted quickly and without travel. In-person Gemba walks can be time-consuming, especially in large work environments. With Digital Gemba walks, team members can participate from their desks, and the walk can be conducted in comparatively lesser time it would take to do it in person.

2. Real-time Data collection and Analysis

Virtual Gemba walks allow for easier analysis of collected data compared to in-person walks. Virtual Gemba walks uses the digital shop floor data capture softwares to collect real-time data from various sources, such as production equipment or software systems. This data can be analysed using various tools to identify patterns, trends, and opportunities for improvement.

3. Improves Teamwork and Collaboration

Virtual Gemba walks can improve teamwork and collaboration communication between managers and employees, particularly in organisations involving geographically dispersed teams or field service management services. By conducting virtual Gemba walks, managers can communicate more frequently with employees, provide feedback on work processes, and identify areas for improvement.

4. Promotes Safety and Reduces risk

Virtual Gemba walks can be a safer alternative to in-person walks, especially in environments where hazards are present. By conducting the Gemba walk remotely, team members can avoid physical risks associated with on-site visits, such as falls, exposure to chemicals or accidents. Digital Gemba walks can be conducted more frequently than in-person walks, reducing possible risks.

5. Convenience and Accessibility

Virtual Gemba walks can be conducted anywhere at any time, making them more convenient and accessible. This particularly benefits organisations when it involves more than one team or teams working from different locations. Virtual Gemba walks allow managers to observe work processes in different locations without travelling.

How do you do the Virtual Gemba walk?

Gemba walks are a powerful tool for achieving operational excellence. By identifying waste and inefficiencies, improving quality, increasing employee engagement, supporting continuous improvement, and fostering collaboration, Gemba Walks can help organisations streamline their operations, reduce costs, and improve their bottom line.

Executing a Virtual Gemba walk involves several steps to ensure a successful observation and data collection process. 

1. Define the scope and objectives: Before conducting a Virtual Gemba, it is essential to define the scope and objectives of the observation. This includes identifying the specific process or area to be observed, the goals of the observation, and the expected outcomes.

2. Choose the right technology: A right technological platform is essential when you Go to Gemba. Select a software solution like the Digital Kamishibai Boards that can make your virtual walks more productive.

3. Plan the observation: Plan the Virtual Gemba walk just as you would plan an in-person walk. Schedule a time that works for everyone involved, and make sure everyone is clear on the walk's purpose. Preparing a checklist of items to observe during the virtual walk is also important.

4. Conduct the Virtual walk: During the virtual walk, the observer should be virtually present in the workplace and interact with team members. The observer should use the checklist to observe and document all relevant items.

5. Collect and Analyse data: After the virtual Gemba walk, collect and analyse the data collected during the observation. It involves reviewing video recordings, taking notes, and discussing the findings with team members. Use the data to identify improvement areas and develop an action plan. The Gemba audits let you evaluate how well the operations work post-Gemba.

6. Follow-up: Do a follow-up on the team about the action plans created as part of the Gemba and its progress. It may also be helpful to conduct additional Virtual Gemba walks to monitor progress and identify additional opportunities for improvement.

Tips for a Successful Virtual Gemba

  • Don't let the communication gap turn down the group participation-  Make sure you have a one-to-one conversation with the team for greater insights.

  • Make use of your technologies- Turning on the cameras or sharing the screen lets you increase participation. With minimum distractions, you can have a more effective Gemba. 

  • Set a rhythm- Let the team know when the Gemba will be conducted and what they need to expect. This can create a token of responsibility within the team and increase engagement.

  • Keep the flow undisturbed- Keep up the pace and structure of the previous Gemba. Switching suddenly to digital can disturb the flow of the team and can negatively affect your efforts.

Virtual Gemba walks help get a comprehensive overview of ongoing processes and identify potential improvement areas in a workplace. Virtual Gemba walks are ideal for staying connected and informed in remote working environments. They are also more cost-effective and convenient than traditional Gemba walks. 

Gemba walks form the foundation of continuous improvement efforts like the 5S as they help identify the areas of improvement for the 5 S audits. Gemba Kaizen can incorporate the value-adding improvements to the operational excellence journey of the organisation. A similar concept to Gemba, Genchi Genbutsu also does the same function of “going to the source” to observe and understand the work processes. 

Virtual Gemba can also provide more data and insights than the traditional approach. By using Virtual Gemba, companies can improve their ability to access and analyse data and monitor and manage operations. It also allows businesses to increase their agility and responsiveness, enabling them to adapt to changing conditions quickly. For businesses seeking real-time collaboration and data-driven decision-making, Virtual Gemba is the way to go.