It is often translated as “shop floor,” but the meaning is much broader. It means actual location. It could mean production, warehouses, stores, testing centers, etc.
The leader should go to Genba.
But there are so many Genba.
One idea is to convert production into Genba that connects. Design the production into a flow based on products or market/ customer.
By designing the production flow properly, a visit to the Genba means more than a visit to production.
“Genba is the mirror of management.”
Genba should be organized according to the strategy of an organization.
I was in a job shop, where a plant manager came back panicking that the demand for a particular product was increasing. By the time we walked the floor and understood the capacity of each machine, we learned that he was panicking about the wrong things. The production he panicked had more than enough capacity. At the same time, other products had capacity limitations.
We organized the production into product family flows. After that happened, production became more responsive to sales. One day, the sales manager was walking by the line. He stopped at one of the lines. He asked why the line was stopping. The plant manager responded that there was no demand. The sales manager needed clarification since he reduced sales of that line due to limited capacity. The business quickly found an opportunity to grow with a single walk. The genba walk by managers became something strategic.
“Leader needs to go to Genba.”
We say that yet many leaders hesitate to do that.
One big misunderstanding is that Genba means “Production shop floor.” It is not.
Genba【現場】 means much broader.
【現】= Actual. Real.
【場】= Location. Site. Field.
Genba could mean a production floor, warehouse, store, or research center for a business. It means many things. In one famous Japanese movie, the main character shouts, “Incidents are happening on genba. Not in a meeting room.” So anywhere other than a meeting room or an office could be a genba.
But then, this will hesitate the leader to visit the Genba since there are too many, and not one genba represents the others.
The idea here is to convert the production genba into something more representative of what leaders want to see.
Here are some ideas;
1. Use the same units for sales and production.
Very often, production uses their units to manage. By using the same units, organizations can stop wasting time converting things, which has the potential for mistakes. Typically, the production wants to use bigger units than the customer.
2. Organize the flow
If the management is organized based on product families, manage the production genba flow according to it.
If the management is organized based on customers/market, manage the production genba flow according to it.
Job shop, organizing the production into process technologies are ego of production. It is different from how things are managed outside production. Production should follow how the leader plans to serve the market.
3. Takt time
Once the flow is organized, implement “Takt time.” The “Takt time” will represent the volume of sales. When the leader walks by the lines, “Takt time” will show what products or markets are increasing or decreasing. I have seen many places investing in declining markets or adding people. A genba walk focusing on “Takt” can eliminate such mistakes.
Another essential thing to implement is levelization. Instead of batching in large quantities, mix the production based on levelization. When you have the levelization, it will represent the sales mix whenever the leader walks the production shop floor.
Perhaps the most important thing to observe is how people work towards the leader’s vision and strategy. The corporate vision and strategy should be broken down into actions on the shop floor. If a leader observes something foreign, it should not blame the people. It should rethink how the information has flowed from the leader to the genba. And if there’s a gap in production genba, consider the gaps in distant sales locations. If the leader observes more talents are developing, he or she can think about using such resources for better objectives. If not, the leader should consider why the necessary development is not happening. I know many leaders think that they can hire from outside. But the outside will suffer the exact reason why the inside people are not developing.
“Genba is the mirror of management.”
Genba should be organized according to the strategy of an organization. If the leader feels it is a waste of time to go to the production genba, the organization treats that as a “cost center.” If the leader designs the genba to represent the strategy, it becomes the “strategic center.” Don’t blame the people or the culture. Change the genba towards strategy oriented. Then, the leader should be able to see sales, improvements (investments), cash flow, and talent pool. The walk to the genba will become a more meaningful time for the leader.