The term Genchi Genbutsu is Japanese in origin and came from the Toyota Production System, which is where methodologies like Lean manufacturing originated. Loosely translated the term means, “go and see.” When used in a workplace, it is usually said to imply that when there is a problem in the facility, the best thing you can do is go out and actually see the physical location where the issue exists.
This is similar to the term Gemba, which means shop floor. Both terms are used to try to get management and other people to realize the importance of getting out of an office and out to where the actual action takes place, so to speak.
Gemba vs. Genchi Genbutsu
While the two terms have certain similarities, they are not to be used interchangeably. The term Gemba is typically going to be used when planning Gemba walks. These walks allow shop managers to go out and walk certain areas of a facility (or even an entire facility if it is not too big) to look for opportunities for improvement. Watching for waste and other issues, for example, can help trigger ideas for how the facility can be run more efficiently.
The big point here is that when engaging a Gemba walk, there is no specific issue that you are trying to solve. Instead you’re just getting to know the shop better so you can make better informed decisions and identify things that could be improved upon.
Genchi Genbutsu, on the other hand, is needed when there is a specific known problem. For example, if machine “A” begins producing defective parts, you will hold a Genchi Genbutsu where you go and see machine “A” to discover what the issue might be.
This is important because it will give you a hands on look and feel for what is going on. This is something you just can’t get second hand from people reporting issues or by looking at computer simulations of problems.
Benefits of Genchi Genbutsu
There are many benefits of the Genchi Genbutsu strategy that will help improve your facility quite significantly. The goal of the system is to be able to get to the root cause of problems more quickly so they can be resolved properly, allowing your facility to begin full production as quickly as possible.
When you go and see the location where a problem exists, you will have a variety of advantages including the following:
Smell – When you are in the area where the problem exists you will be able to experience any smells that are present. If you smell burning rubber or something similar, you can quickly identify this as a problem. Of course, there can be any number of smells that can be clues to finding the root cause of the problem.
Sight – Not surprisingly, being able to see the location of the problem up close is going to be very helpful. If you notice a puddle of liquid under a machine, for example, you may discover that some type of lubricant is leaking out, causing a problem with the machine.
Hearing – Listening for problems is another advantage. Grinding noises where there shouldn’t be any can be an indication of an issue. On the other hand, silence where a machine should be making a noise can also point toward a problem.
Result of the Problem – Being able to watch a part go through a machine can be helpful in discovering where the problem is. This is because you’ll be able to watch for trouble with the results in mind. If a part has a small chip at the end of it, you can monitor the progress of the part until it gets the chip, at which point you’ll know the precise moment that the issue takes place.
Of course, going to the site of the problem and actually seeing what is going on is going to provide you with many other advantages. It is often impossible to know what it is you’ll see, hear, smell or otherwise observe that will give you the clue you need to discover the cause of the problem.
More Useful Over Time
One of the biggest perks to using the Genchi Genbutsu system is that it becomes more beneficial over time. This is because the more people get out to the location of problems, the more they will learn about how things should run.
Learning more about the machines and systems you have in place at a facility will help you to be able to pinpoint where something isn’t right much more quickly. You will see this in many areas of life. For example, someone who has a classic car that they have restored from the ground up will be able to identify problems much more easily than someone who has simply read about these vehicles in books.
The same concept applies here. In order to really be successful, it is important that the right people know the right things about every aspect of the facility. Taking the time to go out to the floor when a problem occurs is one great way to get this experience. Of course, no single person will be able to learn everything about a facility. Having everyone take part in the Genchi Genbutsu strategies will help provide the entire team with the proper knowledge to identify and fix a wide range of issues.
Implementing Genchi Genbutsu
If you would like to give the Genchi Genbutsu strategies a try in your facility, you will be pleasantly surprised at just how easy it is to implement. Unlike many other methodologies in manufacturing, there are no real hard and fast rules that need to be followed. Instead, you simply go to the location of a known problem and start investigating on site.
Of course, over time you will develop custom strategies that work best in your facility, but to begin with it is as simple as leaving your office and taking a look around. Give it a try the next time you have an issue in your facility, and you will likely discover that Genchi Genbutsu is an excellent option.