Preventive Genba Walks
“Stability.” When we ask a manager, “how are you approaching stability?” the most likely answer will be that they check the KPIs, especially the OEE. But is that the right approach?
There was an extreme example of a KPI chacing factory. It followed 80 pages of KPIs every day. So what was the outcome? Did the factory become stable or competitive? It almost went bankrupt. To go through 80 pages of KPIs, the managers stayed in a room and discussed all day long. They became distanced from reality. Nobody took any action.
So what to do?
When we fly on an airplane, we encounter a situation where a pilot comes back from outside. The pilot has just walked around the aircraft to make sure things are in proper condition. Rain, snow, or heat. The weather doesn’t matter. They wear those ugly colored safety jackets and walk to check with their own eyes that the aircraft is in good condition. The walk is not the main form of a check. The maintenance crew submits paperwork that confirms the status of an airplane. The airplane itself has many sensors and instruments to notify the condition. Despite all these layers of checks, the pilot still walks around the aircraft. As the main responsible person of the flight, the pilot checks the condition of the most crucial resource with his own eyes.
Sports. What do good coaches do? They prepare the team for the next game. Good coaches are not going to spend the time analyzing the data from the previous game. Those KPIs should be available during the game so that the coach can adjust the tactics. But again, to modify the tactics, the coach has to prepare the team before the game. Good preparations lead to outstanding performance.
So I ask, why can’t the plant management focus on preparations of daily operations? It is not easy. Unlike flights or sports games, day-to-day operations are ongoing activities. But they can set some time as the period of management, like a day or a shift. And before that period starts, focus on preparations, preventing problems from happening.
I call this “Preventive genba walk.”
Before checking any emails or KPI boards, we should do the preventive genba walk. It is the first thing a manager should do when they arrive at the operations.
Preventive genba walk makes sure that the good standards are taking place in reality. However, more likely, the manager doesn’t have time to check every standard. So, depending on the process characteristics, the manager should define the critical points to check. If the process is human-driven, check to see if all person is available. Make sure that the skill level matches the complexity of the process. If material availability is the key, check the warehouse to see any delays in material arrivals. If there are any deviations with these critical points, take action immediately.
Also, keep in mind to check is non-critical points randomly. There is no need to check everything every day. Yet, randomly, non-critical points should be check. The delegation of periodic reviews of non-critical points is a necessity. It could be an operator, but a manager should still check randomly. If the manager only checks the critical points, then nobody will respect the other standard.
An experienced plant manager knows how to balance the check of critical & non-critical points.
The preventive genba walk should follow the critical flow (the line). After all, the processes are not entirely independent. If processes surrounding the critical point are unstable, so will be the critical point. To be preventive, the manager should walk the entire flow to see any abnormalities on the way. Many will use “safety stock” to protect the flow. But just having stocks will not make the process stable. “Safety stock” requires a plan to refill it as soon as possible. Also, it needs to record why and who is responsible for problem-solving.
Once a manager completes the “Preventive genba walk,” they will join the daily meeting. The daily meeting should start with confirmations from each manager to the leader that the system is green. Without such confirmation, the daily meeting is just chasing “Yesterday’s newspaper.”
Please do not get me wrong. Problem-solving is important. We must do problem-solving. It is important to welcome problem-solving on new problems. Repeating the same mistakes are not. The standard should define the best possible condition, and we should follow those. Management has a responsibility to ensure that those standards are respected. During the problem solving, it is vital for the manager not just focusing on discovering the root cause of a problem. An important question to think about is why I could not prevent the problem from happening?
After all, walking is a healthy way to start a day. Why don’t we make a healthy habit, for both work and life?