This in an excerpt from this book
Adoption of the word gemba has lagged behind adoption of the kaizen concept in the world. This is unfortunate but understandable; being present on the gemba can be a greater mind-set and behavior change than simply doing kaizen.
The Cambridge Business English Dictionary is one of a few sources, as of November 2011, to give the definition of gemba as an English word:
in Japanese business theory, the place where things happen
in manufacturing, used to say that people whose job is to
manufacture products are in a good place to make
improvements in the manufacturing process
This definition captures the spirit of gemba as it pertains to kaizen, but we must first understand gemba in its broader context beyond manufacturing.
The meaning of Gemba is “real place” in Japanese language, which is actually a place which is known to host real action. This word is extensively used in spoken Japanese language. So, in live TV reporting for an earthquake this word is used when the reporting is meant to be telecasted from the scene itself. Hence, all sorts of crime scene, film location, workplace, excavation site, meeting place etc. etc. can all be referred to as Gemba – a place where facts and evidences can be found. But from business perspective, the customer satisfaction derived out of the value added services is the ones which are referred to as Gemba. So, in Japan, Gemba is as popular a word as Kaizen is. Not only that, experts of Japanese business sector opioned that both these words have greater significance in business parlance as well, so much so that important business decisions are taken based on the understanding of a manager’s respective Gemba. Any business operation practices three activities to maximize their profit, without which they don’t exist and they are to develop, produce and sell. And in braoder sense, Gemba forms the common ground of all these three major activities, wherein they occur.
In this present project, we will use the word in this narrower context because these sites have been one of the business arenas most neglected by management. Managers seem to overlook the workplace as a means to generate revenue, and they usually place far more emphasis on such sectors as financial management, marketing and sales, and product development. When management focuses on the gemba, or work sites, they discover opportunities for making the company far more successful and profitable.
In many service sectors, the gemba is where the customers come into contact with the services offered. In the hotel business, for instance, gemba is everywhere: in the lobby, the dining room, guest rooms, the reception desk, the check-in counters, and the concierge station. At banks, the tellers are working in the gemba, as are the loan officers receiving applicants. Most departments in these service companies have internal customers with whom they have interdepartmental activity, which also represents the gemba. A telephone call to a general manager, production manager, or quality manager at a Japanese plant is likely to get a response from the manager’s assistant to the effect that “He is out at the gemba.”
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