Photos 19-Nov
Learnings From Gemba Walk-From piecemeal lean to integrated lean management

Last month, I could visit a small engineering firm amidst the regulations enforced and practiced due to COVID19. Based in the western region of our country, the company manufactures customized gauges, valves, systems and panels for several industrial customers located domestically as well as overseas.

The organization wanted to implement Lean Manufacturing. It had been trying various ways to get it done and the management wanted to make a turn-around in a year. Since the demand has been steady despite corona induced crisis, they want to develop lean systems to enhance capacity, utilize space and reduce quality issues and improve order fulfillment for better business.

The Top management led the Gemba walk to show around and tell about the production process. While walking on the shop floor, our observations were:

  • Thermal scanning & self-declaration is done to ensure compliance
  • Physical distancing is maintained during work and meetings
  • Awareness on 8 Waste, ISO etc through posters on the shop floor
  • Systems like ISO 9001 etc and have been adopted but as described later by the unit head, “while handling high nos of orders, rules get violated”
  • The flow of products is designed in a U-shaped layout  spread over 20,000 sq.ft area
  • Shopfloor meetings are conducted in a designated area
  • Visual boards are put up at shop floor to plan and trace the production
  • Shopfloor is well marked & visual to an extent to differentiate between processes
  • 5S is not in order
  • The storage principles have not been followed in some areas, especially in stores, components get damaged due to close contact
  • Customer issues are managed by making CAPA and modifying the SOPs and
  • SOPs are put up in visual form but missing in some processes
  • Inventory in each process was scattered – in fact spread out across the shop floor
  • &Availability of certain (machines (Welding) is compensated by having extra sets
  • Maintenance of machines is currently on “I run; you fix” principle
  • Product design is customized for each customer
  • Safety is a priority area as every product is unique, production is hazardous and risky
  • Problem Solving is done by the quality head only, and concerned departmental members are engaged as and when required
  • There are delays by customers in lifting the order

The flow of products is designed in a U-shaped layout so product is easily traceable. But the layout has occupied major part of the shop floor. This needs to be compacted there by reducing transportation of material and motion of employees to release prime real estate, reduce WIP and improve communication.

What we felt could be improved –

  • Work is spread in the full factory. In the same area they can double the production. 5S to be improved
  • SOPs to be put in visual form at all work station
  • Storage principles to be introduced
  • Inventory management system
  • Supply chain management
  • Machine maintenance to be taught to operators
  • One-point lessons to be introduced at the workstation and 21 days of 5 minutes training at start of every shift
  • Hazards and Risks to identified and solved
  • Visual planning to be improved,
  • Cross functional problem-solving method to be adopted
  • Policy deployment in war room will help the company to achieve KPI
  • Order fulfillment is quite low and the same can be improved dramatically by a. Visual management system b. Data analysis. c. Involvement of cross functional team d. Supply chain management


A successful lean cell is application of common sense. Here are the 10 Rules for Cell design

  • Keep your material moving to achieve maximum productivity
  • Keep it small - miniature the cell, develop kanban where necessary
  • Keep it logical and sequential - a) Operator inputs, Division of work, Takt time , Line balance, b) Cell layout - straight line, U shape, L shaped or oval and make it integrated
  • Make it ergonomic, don't fight the process
  • Economize on movement - all tools,  supplies, WIP in easy reach-  the goal is to integrate fixturing,  product assembly into process ( mixed model design) 
  • optimize parts presentation - are all  components @ Point of use are bulky parts easily handled, flow racks 
  • Do it online Always - strive for standard work procedure, provide method instructions, online QC, test inspect, test & pack out to minimize rework and WIP , stop line when problem re occurs
  • Minimize waste full handling that does not add value. Minimize movement and lifting online (3 kg lifted 10 times 20units = 6 tons of handling)
  • keep it open and flexible to improve communication between the team for fast visual management on floorscalable design, support continuous improvement,Use Andon lights and visual line status
  • Keep it simple - Low or no maintenance, easily reconfigured, low first cost, economically operative

To summarize, the company appears to have attempted implementation of Lean tools on a piece meal basis without having in place an overall design of an integrated Lean management system.

They have no value stream manager (flow manager) to look at the entire value stream for product family, to optimize the whole rather than the part.

If you happen to see the above observations in your organization, we hope you will take appropriate corrective actions.


If you think that there's more that can be done in the current condition. Please write to me on yiv@vedzen.com

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