Lean 4.0: where will you Gemba Walk when most of the processes will be digitized?

Here is a prospective thought of mine. Gemba Walks are a one of Lean’s tenet and any practitioner is urged to go around the Gemba and see for him/herself in order to learn, understand and eventually improve processes.

But where will we Gemba Walk when most of the processes will be digitized?

How to observe virtual processes? What will remain of the beloved Value Stream Maps (VSM) when most of the value will be created in the heart of information systems, totally invisible and so fast?

>lisez-moi en français

My guess is that future observation will happen in the digital twin and process mining will be the new VSM.

Good old VSM will tell few about the remaining physical flows. Where once 5 to 10 different operations were required to manufacture one part, a single 3D printing operation will do.

It is likely that tooling changeover will disappear, hence the need for fast changeovers with SMED.

Those new processes are likely to be leaner than actual ones.

Food for thought.

About The Author, Chris HOHMANN

About The Author, Chris HOHMANN

View Christian HOHMANN's profile on LinkedIn

3 thoughts on “Lean 4.0: where will you Gemba Walk when most of the processes will be digitized?

  1. Hi Chris,

    Yes, digitialization is becoming a larger part of the overall SYSTEM. But, I am inclined to strenuously argue that it cannot and will not supplant the value-creating/adding contributions made by the human element. And when it comes to WALKING THE GEMBA (i.e., the place where value-adding actions/work occurs), those doing the walking need to let their feet take them to two places that will help them understand the level of performance being achieved by the overall SYSTEM. Those two places are:

    1) First and foremost… at the CUSTOMER INTERFACE – this is where the level of value being created and delivered to the CUSTOMER can be observed/detected/measured. And once that determination is made, then the root causes for any lack of or deficiency in the desired/needed quality/value levels can be traced back to their source.

    2) Wherever there are human-based/related interactions and interdependencies within the overall SYSTEM is where anyone concerned with overall SYSTEM performance needs to focus their attention. And because these are places where human being happen to be working, they are likely to be actual physical locations. Interestingly enough, these may actually include employee’s homes.


    • Hi Jay, thank you for sharing.

      1) This works in case of problem solving. You may see perfect product delivered On Time In Full but not the innefficiencies that led to it. I am currently facing this issue with a company very successful but slowly diying because management cannot see what’s wrong. And customer interface observation tells nothing.

      2) Let’s assume human interactions are limited to order input by the salesperson in the field (soon to be replaced by an internet portal) and the shipment at the very end of a very automated process. In between you’ll find a 3D printer. You won’t get tired gemba walking here.


      • Hi Chris,

        Any time an organization is fulfilling ALL of its CUSTOMER’S needs/expectations and is still on the verge of failing, there’s got to be an OBVIOUS/OBSERVABLE/DETECTABLE reason or set of reasons. Has any member of the management team/staff within company you’re working with taken the time or made any attempt to ask the employees what they consider to be some of the most critical issues at the heart of the company’s problems? If not, I can understand why they are BLIND to the PROBLEMS.

        Given that the process of fulfilling customer orders is highly automated, whose taking case of the equipment that is part of the automated process. If it’s outsourced, whose looking at the terms of the contract(s) and the resulting invoices being paid to the parties being outsourced to? In essence, who is minding the store? And whose looking at what the owners/leaders are doing?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.