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Gemba Process Innovation

How to innovate and optimise in the face of rapidly changing business conditions and customer needs.
Written by Hiroyuki Nishiuma

Gemba Process Innovation can drive the next wave of business innovation in Europe

With businesses across Europe facing a perfect storm of changing buying behaviours and digital disruption, the time is right for the next wave of business innovation. Hiroyuki Nishiuma, the new managing director at Panasonic System Communications Company Europe (PSCEU), suggests lessons learned from a similarly maturing society such as Japan could help. He predicts the next wave of business innovation will come from “Gemba Process Innovation”.

The external pressures shaping business across Europe have never been greater or more varied. As society continues to mature, it brings a host of new challenges and opportunities for industry — forcing them to adapt to thrive. Examples of issues driving this change include those such as changing consumer buying habits, rising environmental and ethical awareness and societal issues such as an ageing population reducing the size of the available labour pool.

In combination, innovation in technology continues to rewrite the possibilities for business. This brings with it both threats and opportunity as disruptors rip-up the traditional rules of commerce, changing the way that manufacturing, supply chains and retail interact.

As organisations explore ways to adapt, looking at the experiences of others can be useful. In Japan, Gemba Process Innovation is being used to radically review, redesign and reinvent operations using technology to increase efficiencies and free-up creative potential.

Much-like the business philosophy of Kaizen that came before it, Gemba Process Innovation presents an opportunity to benefit European businesses. But rather than small, incremental continuous improvements that were inspired by Kaizen, Gemba Process Innovation takes a more transformative approach. It combines an in-depth understanding of the organisation and of the latest available technologies to deliver new methods of working.

The gemba is the physical site where value is created. This Japanese word literally translates to "the actual place". For example, in the supply chain the gemba is where things are made, moved, or sold; the site where value is generated and problems must be confronted: the factory floor, the warehouse, or points-of-sale; these are referred to as the gemba.

Each has their own unique processes and goals, but also their own particular challenges. However, the question on the minds of managers of all these operational fronts is the same:


How to innovate and optimise in the face of rapidly changing conditions and customer needs?

In Europe, Gemba Process Innovation is most obviously suited to manufacturing, logistics and 

Managing Director, Mr. Hiroyuki Nishiuma

Mr. Hiroyuki Nishiuma
Managing Director of Panasonic System Communications Company Europe (PSCEU)

retail industries but it has applications across many industries. In manufacturing, Gemba Process Innovation can accelerate automation with the use of technologies such as robotics. In logistics, it can provide the ability to sort, schedule, track and monitor the condition of goods using Deep Learning and sensor technologies connected via the Internet of Things. In the retail sector, it can be used to adopt AI and camera technology to drive personalised digital marketing, as well as automated stock re-ordering to optimise product availability on the shelves.


It all begins with deep business understanding

Of course, technology alone cannot solve these challenges. The first step in successful Gemba Process Innovation is a deep understanding of the existing business process; what works and what doesn’t. This is achieved through consultation, a close observation of the business and industry understanding. However, the workforce itself also has a vital role to play. Employee knowledge about a business’ critical processes is probably one of its greatest assets. Gemba Process Innovation taps into this knowledge.

Often people worry that new technology-driven solutions will automatically mean the loss of jobs, but in my experience, this is not necessarily the case. It is more likely to result in a change of labour requirement. In reality, many of the repetitive and physically intensive job roles are removed and new opportunities are created for the workforce to be engaged in alternative and often more rewarding roles.

In retail
A busy franchise of a community store has used Gemba Process Innovation to deploy Electronic Shelf Labels and integrated price management software to update product prices, improve customer confidence and increase sales.

Previously, every three weeks, up to 300 price changes were having to be made manually to items in store. This sometimes led to out date shelf pricing and promotion information, additional stress and workload on staff, and dissatisfied customers. Panasonic worked with the store owners to analyse the issue and identify a solution for the business. Electronic Shelf Labels for each item in the store, across the shelves, fresh products and fridges, were integrated to the central price management system which enables prices to be updated automatically.

The results were startling: a 100% reduction in human error, an 80% time saving on label updates, satisfied customers and an estimated increase in future turnover of up to 10%.

In conclusion, as European businesses position themselves globally to take advantage of the next wave of technological innovation, Panasonic plans to assist them in achieving their goals by becoming a full service provider focusing on these types of industry solutions that transform the gemba — the place where value is created.

Find out more about Gemba Process Innovation