In manufacturing, much can be learned about the production process in detailed books, presentations and meetings - but sometimes you just have to see how things work for yourself. That’s the idea behind what is known as a “gemba walk,” a technique pioneered in Japan that calls for leaders to visit the manufacturing floor to observe processes, gather information and interact with workers.
Gemba, a Japanese term that means “the real place,” is in practice at several CSL manufacturing sites around the globe. During a gemba walk, leaders are able to talk directly with employees and solicit feedback and ideas from those on the front lines. The walks also offer a tangible experience for leadership to observe how a process works in practice – not on a whiteboard. The information gathered is used to develop solutions to make CSL processes more effective and efficient.
At CSL’s Broadmeadows, Australia, site, leaders recently completed 120 gemba walks as part of a pilot program. Mason Briner, Manufacturing Area Manager at Broadmeadows, said the walks play a critical role in improving site operations.
“When you gemba, not only can you solve the real problems, but everyone in the team gets involved helping to share ideas and create solutions,” he said.
Some of those solutions at Broadmeadows include equipment updates and improved meeting outcomes. Many of the changes were suggested by workers on the site floor.
CSL Senior Legal Counsel Ainslee Minihan, a member of Broadmeadows’ Extended Leadership Team, said she wasn’t sure what to expect before her first gemba walk.
“Personally, the thing that really struck me was just how proud people were to work at CSL,” she said. “Everybody working on the shop floor – they knew exactly where their product was going, what it was going to do. They were really enthusiastic to show us what they did.”
The walks are focused on identifying improvements related to the focus areas of CSL’s End-to-End Operations BHAGs, or Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals. With each walk, CSL is making strides toward more efficiently delivering its lifesaving medicines for patients.