Frank “Rio” Shines is a Lean Six Sigma facilitator and data analytics senior manager with Express Scripts. A former Air Force officer, IBM executive and Ernst & Young consultant, Frank Shines has flown Air Force jets, trained and competed with Olympic athletes and traveled the world as an award-winning business adviser to Fortune 500 executives. Frank worked under the tutelage of six sigma co-founder Dr. Mikel J. Harry and quality pioneers Drs. W. Edward Deming and Kosaku Yoshida. Mr. Shines has more than 25 years of process improvement and data analysis experience with the U.S. Air Force, Globalcorporations and small and start-up businesses. He has lived abroad and conducted business in the Americas, China, Europe and Australasia. Frank is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and holds an MBA in Marketing Statistics from National University of Sacramento. He is certified in Six Sigma, Management Engineering and Avionics Communications and Computer Systems. In his spare time, Frank enjoys world travel, coaching his young daughter in gymnastics and golfing with his wife and father
I first learned to fly while attending the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. As part of that early training the drilled into us the importance of conducting a visual pre-flight inspection or walk-around before strapping on a jet. Manufacturers trained in Lean Six Sigma methods, call this visual assessment of the shop floor, the Gemba Walk. Gemba (also, Genba) is a Japanese term meaning “the real place.” Over the past 25 years, I have witness first-hand the power of Gemba on the flight line, the shop floor and in the business office. However, in today’s virtual, Industrial Internet world of Big Data, Gemba is in transition. The power of Big Data in the factory was highlighted in aWall Street Journal article, How Many Turns in a Screw? Big Data Knows. The piece features a major defense contractor and its use of manufacturing execution systems (MES) to help them identify when a worker turns a screw only 12 times instead of the required 13 times at its missile plant. And this is one example of how Big Data virtual Gemba is evolving.
Depending on how you define it, the history of Gemba dates back hundreds of years to 1574 when King Henry the 3rd watched the hourly production of Galley ships in 1574. But our modern understanding of Gemba dates back to the post WWII era when quality pioneers such as Deming, Juran, and Shewhart visited Japan and worked with companies such as Toyota, which was led by Eiji Toyoda and Taiichi Ohno at the time. This exchange of ideas across the Pacific ultimately led to the Toyota Production System and the development of today’s Lean principles like Gemba. The use of the word Gemba refers to going to the actual place where work is being done to see firsthand what is happening. In business today, Gemba has evolved to mean going to the location where customer value is being created. This “place” could be a production floor, a call center an oil well site – or even an airline cockpit. However, the Gemba challenge we face today is due to rapid process “speed” and “placelessness.”
The physical Gemba of yesterday is necessary but not sufficient in an era of high-speed robotics, sensors, digital processes and virtual workforces. It is simply impossible to “see” work in action today in the same way that we saw it 50 years ago. So if the aim of going to a Gemba is to see where and how value is being, we must augment Gemba with our modern tools, namely analyzing digital processes using Big Data footprints.
I first came across this emerging field of Big Data during an IBM Golden Circle Award event in Hawaii. A group of IBM PhD scientists explained a concept then called “utility computing” (now referred to as “cloud computing”). The clear implications of utility computing would be Big Data. Once there is a central place(s) online to store data, we will then connect everything to it, thus fueling an explosion in data. And this is what we are witnessing now. IBM explains big data through the lens of four dimensions, the 4Vs: volume, velocity, variety, veracity. The speed and volume of data is exploding and we are creating lots of varieties of it with social media, machine logs, mobile phones, sensors, health/fitness devices, and much more. In International Data Corporation (IDC) report entitled, The Expanding Digital Universe: A Forecast of Worldwide Information Growth through, the company predicted “information will double every 18 months in the next four years.” Recent studies indicate they underestimated the data growth. CSC predicts that “data production will be 44 times greater that it was.” So what does all of this mean for the Gemba walks?