Genchi Genbutsu: Teaching Maintenance Managers To Be Present
When it comes to lean manufacturing, one of the earliest concepts taught is the 13 pillars of the Toyota Production System. Some pillars are used daily, like Kanban or Kaizen. Others are used situationally, like Heijunka or Jidoka. One of the most overlooked pillars is arguably one of the most important: Genchi Genbutsu. Being present and understanding is key in everything from problem-solving to innovating.
Understanding the concept of Genchi Genbutsu
Genchi Genbutsu is a Japanese term that translates to “actual place, actual thing.” In the manufacturing industry, it refers to a principle that’s just as much an attitude as it is a management practice. Managers who follow Genchi Genbutsu, whether knowingly or unknowingly, are in touch with the operational realities of their facility by being physically present at the locus of a problem or a situation where a decision needs to be made.
Simply put, Genchi Genbutsu is about being present. Managers must have an intimate understanding of the factory, the day-to-day operational challenges, and the workers within. Paired with the concept of the gemba walk — which refers to the need for leaders to physically observe work processes and engage with employees — Genchi Genbutsu enables more contextually aware decision-making.
Teaching managers to become immersed in the areas of the factory they oversee is an important step toward improving day-to-day operations.
Teaching managers to value “actual place, actual thing”
Why teach manufacturing managers Genchi Genbutsu? A deep, fundamental understanding of being present in the factory can help industry leaders identify challenges, solve problems, create innovation, improve company culture, and more. When managers are physically and mentally present at the manufacturing facility, it opens communication between management and operators. Your team gets better visibility of problems in real time, allowing managers to make quick, informed decisions that include feedback from operators on the floor.
How to instill the teachings of Genchi Genbutsu
There are significant benefits to adopting Genchi Genbutsu principles in the manufacturing industry, but how do you encourage your management team to take this approach? The best way is to get them away from their desks and out on the floor to see how the factory operates day to day. Encourage management to walk in their employees’ shoes by talking to operators and getting to know their jobs and the challenges they face each day. By getting an understanding of all parts of a facility’s value stream, manufacturing managers can make better decisions that make a meaningful difference to your everyday operations.
What’s your Genchi Genbutsu approach look like? Start developing a plan to help your management team connect with employees and conditions in the facility, so you can keep your operation running and improve your bottom line.