Gemba Walks for Distribution Centers

Six Sigma – iSixSigma Forums General Forums Tools & Templates Gemba Walks for Distribution Centers

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    Remy Snemis

    Like my title suggests, I am looking for advice on creating Gemba walks for the Distribution Center I have recently been employed at. I have used it before, but tailoring it for pure distribution seems kinda wonky. If anyone has any advice or examples of checklists/boards it would be much appreciated!



    I don’t advise using checklists and such for gemba walks. Your purpose should be to learn what’s really happening without preconceptions. Once you recognize something wasteful that could be improved, turn it over to process engineering. If you’re responsible for doing both, change hats as needed so your gemba walks are not restricted. Collecting and analyzing data for one or more specific improvements must be separate from identifying improvement opportunities or you will become blind.


    Chris Seider

    well put @Straydog


    David Moeller


    I’ve got responsibility for two distribution centers and understand the challenge you face. In a production setting you can stand and clearly observe a stationary work center with materials flowing through that step in the process. In distribution you have effectively the reverse with a moving work center (forklift operator or order picker) and stationary materials being placed or pulled. I’ve found it beneficial to basically follow our order pickers on their routes and look for waste reduction opportunities as they pull the orders. Other opportunities for waste reduction in distribution can only be seen through data analysis. An example is examining the physical location of product in relation to the volume that is being pulled and shipped to minimize the distance traveled picking orders. There is waste in distribution and agree with Strayer that I wouldn’t let a check sheet or other formal process slow your improvement efforts. It is likely that after a few weeks of walks you will figure out the right tool you need to ensure each walk identifies opportunities for improvement.


    Remy Snemis

    Thanks for the responses everyone!
    To give some slight more context, the underlying reason for me wanting to use the checklist/board idea is due to the fact that lean culture here is something that is just barely taking hold here. For me, giving my team leads/supervisors some sort of quantifiable work to do during the walk seems like a good way for me to get them thinking more lean. We have already done some simple things, like shadowboards for cleaning stations and doing time studies for our pick paths, but our overall goal is to get everyone engaged. Also in case it isn’t clear, I am a bit green to this.



    The main idea in Gemba/Process walks is keep it simple. My only hard and fast rule is to curtail any and all criticism during the walk. It should be observation only and usually follow the identified widget in the process from end to end not the people.

    I try and stay away from any checklists and go with open ended questions.

    If we are gathering information it is fairly simple.

    *What work/items come in to the station/person?
    *What happens in the current step?
    *What work/item goes out?
    *Document efficiencies, or lack of, that you witnessed at the end of the demonstration

    At the end after the observation I may coach my team to ask either, what can go wrong we didn’t see, or what would you change if you could?

    *If timings are gathered don’t use stop watches, just use best guess averages.

    If you pull out a stop watch will on a walk the person or area you are observing will not be in their normal environment and exhibit some interesting behaviors that don’t match reality.

    These are simple to follow and by observing and not criticizing, you get the best chance to see the ‘real’ process end to end. I am always surprised by how much a person will share when not threatened by the attention.

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