Gemba walk,

First of all, most people do not know what Gemba walk means, unless you’ve worked in Japanese manufacturing or are a keen student of Quality practices…Gemba…or Gembutsu in Japanese essentially means “the real place”.

A Gemba walk is a cross-functional activity where a team of people observe the general operations of a factory, workplace, production line and so on…

This activity intends to see where there are Non-Value-Added operations, deviations from the Standard Operations and where the processes can be further improved.

Why should we do a Gemba Walk?

Do you want to improve your Margins, Operating Efficiency, Brand Image or Product Quality…(it’s unlikely you’d say no to at least one of these)? Then a Gemba Walk aims to find issues, create improvement plans and sustain best practices.

Who should be in the Gemba Walk team?

In the context of Quality Assurance and Product Manufacturing; a good starting point would be to include leadership positions such as:

  • Production
  • Manufacturing Engineering
  • Quality
  • Logistics
  • Supplier Quality Assurance.

Each member has different experiences, skills and expertise which can create great synergies. The activity allows the managers to better understand the place of work at an operational level.

How to do a Gemba Walk?

A Gemba Walk can be a long and ineffective process if not organized in the right way. In this section, we explore key steps to conducting the activity to ensure efficiency, consistency and most of all accountability.

The steps are:

The steps of Gemba walk

It’s critical throughout the Gemba Walk to maintain an unbiased view and not assign blame to people. If there are areas of improvement, the process owner must accept the feedback from the cross-functional team.

When we are focused on the day-to-day, it’s easy to become complacent and miss opportunities for improvement.

1. Prepare the Gemba Walk Team

Team members who will participate in the Gemba Walk need to understand its scope and why it needs to be conducted.

Knowing this, the benefits can be shared with the team and give a greater sense of purpose to improvement activities.

Discussing the Gemba Walk in advance helps create open dialogue and encourages active participation.

2. Have a Plan

Gemba Walks are not Management by Walking Around (MBWA). the Walk is used to improve a specific KPI or Concern.

Throughout the Gemba Walk, the Leadship Team will ask specific questions related to the observed process. Typical questions may include but are not limited to:

  • Who is performing the operations?
  • What are the components/materials used?
  • How do you do the work?
  • When do you start the operation?
  • How do you know what to do?

As you can see, the questions focus on the task or operation. They are opened ended to encourage the person interview to think and explain.

Companies that can effectively implement Gemba Walks create structure.

3. Follow the Value Stream

To Follow the Value Stream means to walk to process start to end, observing the operations and interactions between individuals, departments and processes. The Gemba Walk by Value Stream helps identify critical points which are prone to reduction in Quality. Observed, and underlying issues can be uncovered.

A great way to increase effectiveness and buy-in is to include frontline employees to propose work areas, processes or shifts as they experience the problems day-to-day.

4. Review the Process

Always focus on the process, not people. The Gemba Walk is not a performance evaluation of an employee.

It’s Purpose is to:

The purpose of Gemba walk is to review the process

Frontline employee Gemba Walk preparation is key to ensuring they understand that they are to provide honest answers; allowing them to speak freely and not give answers which they think is correct to please the interviewers.

Any observations which find the operation is not correctly followed requires the employee to acknowledge and not hide it from the Gemba Walk team.

5. Document Observations

A flurry of information, actions and conversations can happen during a Gemba Walk, documenting each item is essential to improvement success.

We recommend you have the right equipment to record these interactions such as:

Document Observations during Gemba

A Pen and Paper as well as the Camera seems obvious to be able to record interactions and observations. But what about being Open-minded?

Having an Open Mind means to approach the Gemba Walk and questioning without any bias or assumptions.

Bias is a disproportionate weight in favor of or against an idea or thing, usually in a way that is inaccurate, closed-minded, prejudicial, or unfair.

6. Ask Questions

Questions must be asked of the participants in the process.

The 5 W’s provides a perfect structured approach for the questions will ask and answer during your Gemba Walk.


are the people involved in the processes that you observe?

are the “customers” of the process?


are the inputs and outputs of the process?

obstacles inhibit flow or produce waste?


does the space where the work is preformed conform to 5S?

are necessary materials and equipment conveniently located?

do you notice the poor quality points?


are process inputs available when needed?

is the waste of waiting observed?

is product scrapped or reworked?


What value does this work add for the customer?

7. Vary the Gemba Walk Schedule

It is essential to refrain from providing suggestions or solutions during the Gemba Walk.

Introducing solutions almost instantly undermines individuals’ capacity to learn and practice independent problem-solving.

By conducting the Gemba Walk at different times, morning, afternoon, different shifts and days will provide a source of observing variation.

If the activity is only performed on the same people, time and day, there is a risk of biased data.

8. Follow-up

Share what the Gemba Walk team has learned and communicate what are the next steps with the employees.

Bysharing the findings and actions with the wider business, positive engagement and change can begin.

Change is certain; accepting, embracing and implementing is essential to continuous improvement.

Gemba Walk associated with IATF 16949?

The idea of Gemba walk may help to fulfill ISO 9001 and IATF 16949 requirements in (Attention: it is very subjective examples list of the requirements!):

5.1.1    General

Top management shall demonstrate leadership and commitment with respect to the quality management system by: a) taking accountability for the effectiveness of the quality management system Process owners

(…) process owners who are responsible for managing the organizations processes and related outputs.

6.1.2    Planning to address risks and opportunities

The organization shall plan (…) actions to address these risks and opportunities and (…) evaluate the effectiveness of these actions. Preventive action

(…) e) Reviewing the effectiveness of the preventive action taken

9.1.1    General (Monitoring, Measurement, Analysis, and Evaluation)

The organization shall evaluate the performance and the effectiveness of the quality management system.

10.2.1  Reaction to nonconformities

(…) d) review the effectiveness of any corrective action taken

10.2.3  Problem solving

(…) e) verification of the effectiveness of implemented corrective actions

10.3     Continual Improvement

The organization shall continually improve the suitability, adequacy and effectiveness of the quality management system.

Let’s sum up!

A Gemba walk is an excellent way for Leadership to better understand the processes that drive the business.

It encourages cross-functional support to incorporate continuous improvement at all levels and builds strong relationships with those who perform the value-added work.

Proactivity is at the center of this activity and helps push improvements sooner than when issues are reported in a reactive way.

Do you want to know more?

We invite you to the ISO 9001 and IATF 16949 training organized by Qualitywise. You will learn in detail all the requirements for the quality management system. Ask about the date. Or are you interested in other training’s topic?


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Thank you for your presence.

Agata Lewkowska Ph.D.

Christopher Scott

PS. Join our private group on Facebook where you can raise a questions and get help: ISO 9001 & IATF 16949 QualityWise Group.

For people who want to know more:

Knowledge must have a solid foundation in order to avoid information noise. Therefore, the article was based on the following literature:

IATF 16949: 2016 Requirements for quality management systems in serial production and the production of spare parts in the automotive industry, 1st edition, 2016

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