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Shop Floor

‘Shop floor’ is a generic term used to describe the work areas where production is done. The terminology is important because there has been a migration of Lean from the shop floor to office, healthcare, and other service environments. Because there are differences in the way some tools are applied in different types of work areas, it makes sense to have a way to clarify what you are talking about.

‘Shop floor’ is commonly used synonymously with gemba. That, though, is an oversimplification and leaves out some important work areas. Gemba would also include office areas and non-production work. To clarify, all shop floors are gembas, but all gembas are not on the shop floor.

One of the reasons that this term is even necessary is that improvement teams often try to debate the causes of or the solutions to problems from within a conference room. “Go to gemba” or “go to the shop floor” is common coaching advice from facilitators. It simply means that problems are solved in the real place that the problem is occurring.

In fact, the problem of not being present on the shop floor is not unique to kaizen teams. Many managers, especially those that were in a more traditional batch and queue company early in their careers, tend to be less present on the shop floor then their Lean manager counterparts. It is hard to identify problems in less you are there to see them. And it is even harder to correct a problem that you do not identify.

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