Gemba, a Japanese term meaning “the actual place,” now also refers to a management technique that follows the belief that by visiting the place where work is done, leaders and team members can gain valuable insight into where the value is in an organization, uncover opportunities for improvement and learn how to support each other.
The ArcelorMittal Dofasco Continuous Improvement Council is hoping to make Gemba a part of our culture. For the first event, which took place in November, they asked business units across Dofasco to each nominate one or two improvement activities to showcase. “In the past, we have had teams come to the Main Office and give presentations, but we are trying to change that and go to the place where the improvement was made. Also, instead of a large audience, they are for groups of two to 10 people,” said Caleb Suter (Metallurgy, Quality and Continuous Improvement). “The format is also less of a presentation with more interaction. Participants can see a demonstration of a positive change or talk to someone involved.
“It started with the idea of having Continuous Improvement Days, but continuous improvement is not a once-a-year thing. While for now, Gembas will be set up as official events, the hope is in the future, it will be less formal, with the management team just saying, ‘let’s go see this.’”
To kick things off, teams were trained on how to Gemba and were asked to register for at least one of 35 events. Every Gemba had at least one participant and 74 per cent of the slots were filled. Registered participants and hosts filled out surveys about their experiences.
Roger Tang-Poy, Vice-President, Technology, attended Hot Mill Shift Maintenance PCS, which demonstrated a new reporting system the team created to improve communication between the day and night shifts. The process helps ensure the incoming shift is aware of what repairs and work were done during the prior shift. “This ensures the right information flows from each shift and also to day staff, so they know about typical, systemic issues and can address them to put corrective measures in place,” said Roger. “From this, they also realized that some team members had learning gaps, so they came up with a training system for them to learn about the equipment by spending time with subject matter experts.”
Roger was impressed by what he learned at the Gemba. “These Gembas have two major benefits. Senior management can see what goes on and support the people on the front line. They can provide constructive criticism and get an appreciation for what is going on and acknowledge it. They also provide a way to share information. For example, maybe someone in another unit could use the same idea. If a leader sees an innovative idea, they can tap someone in another department and pass it on. It really connects the organization.”
Norma Bonner (Integrated Health and Wellness) attended the Commercial unit’s, WCCI Team Michi-can Board Presentation. Team Michi-can’s focus was on understanding and identifying the root causes of the transportation issues that occurred through Q4-2017 and Q1-2018 with a focus on the Michigan corridor. The cross-functional team, including members from Commercial, Finish Product
Shipping and Purchasing, developed metrics and key performance indicators to provide
better visibility of the health of the process.
“They did a great job on the Gemba presentation, both the employees presenting the board and the WCCI Champion were knowledgeable, as well as diverse in their experiences to look outside the box for improvements,” said Norma. “It is refreshing to see newer employees working effectively with experienced employees within their team, each respecting what the other brings to the team. Our future will be bright if this approach continues.”