Not just more of the same
Continuous improvement, Kaizen, Kata, and Six Sigma are all familiar concepts. In fact, most key players in the European logistics and transportation environment employ specialists who implement these methodologies throughout their infrastructures.
So why introduce Gemba Process Innovation (GPI) into the mix? Surely, it is just another Japanese tool used to enhance efficiency and improve processes? The answer is a clear no. While there are similarities with the aforementioned approaches, it is materially different.
Technology makes the difference
For starters, many of the established methodologies are the brain children of purely manufacturing organisations. Panasonic does boast over 100 year’s production experience, however we are also a technology company, with a long list of successful innovations. We leverage many of these, including CCTV and sensor systems, to capture and then analyse valuable data on our customer’s operations, processes, and employee behaviour.
Moreover, GPI is performed in the field, where operations take place – not remotely, at a desktop. In other words, it is applied at “the actual place” – which is what “gemba” means in Japanese. This can be the depot, warehouse or production facility. We then build models and use the consolidated data to create scenarios. The first scenario reflects existing processes and working methods. Then we begin exploring what changes can be made and what solutions could be introduced to make improvements. Here again, our home-grown technologies come into play. For instance, we deploy AI to calculate the impact of possible alterations. We subsequently present the results to our customers.
GPI in action
Imagine you believe there is potential to improve efficiency at your warehouse, but are just not sure exactly how to go about it. A major logistics company was facing exactly this problem when they approached us. We suggested installing sensors and cameras allowing us to track and subsequently analyse employee and forklift movements. Based on this information, we created an exact model of operations, and proposed several scenarios designed to avoid the pain points we identified. This included Panasonic solutions, and changes to warehouse layout and parcel flow.
In another instance, we were at a customer site to explore the benefits of installing our Visual Sort Assist (VSA) system. We noticed that they were struggling to maintain an accurate, up-to-the-minute overview of the status of vehicles in their loading areas – and the faster a depot manager knows when a lorry will be ready to depart the better. At this particular facility information is communicated via telephone by an employee tasked with patrolling the loading area on foot and checking each individual truck one at a time. This results in delays between when a vehicle could technically depart and when the manager is made aware of the fact. To speed up this process, we recommended a solution that monitors the lorries and can identify the loading rate, i.e. making it possible to estimate when loading will be complete. When the solution is fully implemented, this data will be automatically transferred to the transport management system, giving the depot manager total visibility at all times. Moreover, information such as estimated arrival time and truck load can be passed on to the destination depot – allowing them to allocate workers in advance.
It’s not about pushing our products
The best solution is not always a technological one. For instance, when streamlining the picking process for a customer, we carefully studied the positions and movements of employees. We determined that by raising the height of the conveyer, picking was completed more rapidly and the task became less strenuous. This highlights how even slight adjustments to repetitive tasks can have a tangible impact – and result in a return on investment.
Our aim is not simply to sell products or implement technologies that do not fit with a customer’s processes or working environment. We want long-term partnerships, and we want to ensure our customers achieve greater agility and efficiency – via made-to-measure solutions.