What are the benefits of Genba Kanri?

Manufacturing people know that they have to improve - their quality, cost, delivery, productivity and all. Very often they get excited by the idea of a Workshop - something that is going to make dramatic improvements in only a few days - which, for the investment of a little time and money will yield benefits every day thereafter and soon pay for itself.

The trouble is that when we try to establish what it is we are trying to improve there is often no data! There are usually targets - which are regarded as something to aim for rather than a clear 'given' expectation - but they are often not achieved. 'Well, we do our best, but they're only targets!' is the usual attitude. There are all sorts of things which stop people achieving what is expected of them: breakdowns, staff absence, material delivery or quality problems, etc. When we take a look at the real situation on the shop floor to take that as our starting point, people say, 'Don't look at me, I'm not normally on this job', 'This machine is playing up today', 'We normally make this product on that line over there', 'These parts are from a different supplier' etc.

OK, so we ask, 'How were you trained to do this job?', 'How is the machine supposed to be maintained, set and operated?', 'How do you change the line over?', 'What is the specification for the components?', and so on. We are considering:

Is there a standard? Is it simple, objective and conspicuous? Is it known? Is it observed? When was it last improved?
We often find that standards for these aspects of the job are unknown, unclear, out of date, or simply don't exist. Yet the people in the area are 'doing their best', each in their individual way. If we ask, for example, if the quality standard of a particular product is acceptable we're more likely to get an opinion than a definitive answer.

If we conduct a Workshop in an environment like this we are almost certain to make significant improvements - but we cannot be confident that they will be sustained. If there is nothing to assure that equipment is going to be maintained, then reducing lead time and WIP, for example, will probably lead to a machine breakdown instantly stopping an entire process. If there is no system for Quick Response Quality Control then again the process will grind to a halt when deviations occur. If there is no appreciation of Standard Operations, and means of training people in them, everyone will continue to propagate their 'own best way' of doing the job. When it comes to changing the machine or the line over we'll not be able to find the required tools and equipment because there is no 5C appreciation.


In a GK company, somebody has asked the question, 'What exactly are we supposed to be doing - and how are we supposed to be doing it?!'

This initially prompts scrutiny of standards for quality, cost and delivery. For example:

What are the significant features of this product? How do we measure them? What are the tolerances? How do we achieve them at minimum cost and effort? How do we know we are meeting them?
This leads to the development of standards - of 'what' and 'how' for all aspects of the operation. These are linked by systems which ensure that the standards are mutually compatible (e.g. there's no point in having procedures for conducting condition monitoring of equipment if there is no capability to respond to problems reported). There are systems for dealing with deviations: 'Our target was 1000 units today, but we only made 970. How do we make good the shortfall and ensure that today's problems are not repeated?'

The benefit of Genba Kanri is that all these avenues are covered. The role of the Supervisor or First Line Manager changes from that of fire-fighter, constantly responding to failures to meet (often unclear) expectations, to one in which he/she is simply applying, maintaining and improving standards. Targets are 'givens', not just something to aim for. We do what we are supposed to do, because we have done it before, we have figured out the best way of doing it, we know that it works, and we can rely on others to do what they are supposed to do. We, and our systems, are competent. We are confident in our actions and the actions of those around us.

Confident in the knowledge that there are systems to cover most eventualities, we can concentrate on improving what we have. We perhaps don't know what new demands our customers may impose on us, but we have a solid foundation on which to build improvements.

We have developed a mechanism for identifying all the salient points of a manufacturing operation. This has 20 groups under the headings of Quality, Cost, Delivery, Safety & Environment, Operator Involvement and Organisation. We use this to benchmark against World Class standards and to map out an improvement programme which incorporates and builds on existing best practice in your organisation.


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