Visitors on a Gemba walk of the factory floor

The Advantages of a Gemba Walk Checklist in PCB Manufacturing

Have you ever noticed that during warmer months it’s easy to find a reason to go outside? Fresh air and sunshine can provide a great motivation to push back from the desk and computer. Another compelling catalyst for taking a break from the office is to get a bird’s-eye view of how your boards are constructed. There are many benefits to understanding the steps and processes that determine the quality and reliability of your PCBAs. Taking a Gemba walk through your CM’s manufacturing facility will likely provide a greater appreciation of the complexity of building circuit boards and why PCBA development optimization requires a white box approach.

What is a Gemba Walk?

Similar to poka-yoke, the Gemba walk originated at Toyota to improve the production process. A Gemba walk may be described as follows:


A Gemba walk occurs when persons who otherwise do not directly perform production activities physically walk through a manufacturing facility and observe the steps and equipment involved in product manufacturing.

Gemba walks often are used to educate employees, especially managers, on company manufacturing processes. As staff develops a better understanding of the organization and its manufacturing processes, collaborations can emerge that may result in actionable ideas to improve efficiency.

Gemba Walk vs Plant Visit

Gemba walks can resemble plant tours where someone outside of the organization—for example, a job candidate or potential investor—walks the floor to gain a better understanding of the manufacturing process. Unlike plant visits, though, a Gemba walk is not simply informational; these tours have a specific focus and objective.

Gemba Walk Objectives:

    • To learn how products are made and services provided.
      Because Gemba walk participants do not work on the production line, learning about manufacturing equipment and processes are the primary goals.
    • To look for potential opportunities for improvement.
      The ultimate purpose of a Gemba walk is to discover process optimization opportunities. For example, if board production yield rates are not meeting targets, a Gemba walk may reveal the cause of the shortfall.
    • To devise an implementable plan of action for process improvement.
      Through the collaboration of vested partners, a tangible course of efficiency-building action with monitorable metrics should emerge from the Gemba walk.

As the list of objectives indicates, a Gemba walk is a far more focused activity than a plant tour; and it can contribute significantly to the optimization of your PCBA development.

Advantages of a Gemba Walk in PCBA Manufacturing

Gemba walks can benefit almost any production operation. However, they are most advantageous for complex processes where collaboration is necessary to achieve the best results, such as circuit board manufacturing.

How Gemba walks aid PCBA Manufacturing

    • Promotes developer-CM collaboration
      The best board process is based on an open, transparent and symbiotic relationship between the developer and CM. This collaboration allows each party to fully understand process optimization responsibilities.
    • Helps developer understand CM capabilities and constraints
      The importance of acquiring and following your CM’s DFM and DFA rules and guidelines cannot be overstated. By doing so, you can rest assured your decisions and specifications yield manufacturable designs.
    • Helps CM understand developer design intent
      When your CM understands critical and non-critical features of your design, they can choose to maximize yield rate and reduce costs that will not adversely affect board quality.
    • Supports risk management planning
      Risk management is essential to optimize your manufacturing process. Gemba walks can help identify targets that should be monitored or included.
    • Provides project specificit
      The steps of the PCBA manufacturing process are well-defined. Yet, each new product development is unique. The board build process should be flexible enough to realign manufacturing steps for process optimization.

Planning your Gemba walk is the first step toward realizing these advantages.

The Importance of a Gemba Walk Checklist

A Gemba walk should be viewed as a purpose-driven activity to achieve the best PCBA development by targeting the process efficiency of manufacturing, which is the stage that most affects board quality. The following example Gemba walk checklist can be used as a template from which you can create a custom list that best reflects the intent and objectives of your visit to the factory floor.

✅ Create a plan with specific objectives.
✅ Include team members.
✅ Prepare and ask questions.
✅ Focus on the value stream, processes and ROI.
✅ Observe and document.
✅ Debrief with your team.
✅ Follow-up with your CM(s).
✅ Make adjustments.

All About Tempo

Watch Now

The above template for a Gemba walk checklist can be used for a fabrication house, assembly plant or combined production facility. However, specific objectives and questions will vary depending on the targeted stage or process step.

Tempo’s Software-Driven Smart Factory Delivers the Industry’s Leading Custom Turnkey PCBA Manufacturing Services
  • Virtual PCBA Contract manufacturing.
  • Rapid, accurate quotes.
  • DFM support from Day 1 of design.
  • Digital Thread Processing with real-time monitoring.
  • Fastest turnaround times in the industry to maximize ROI.
  • QC certified Agile Manufacturing process to support risk management.
  • Standard and Advanced QC testing.
  • Worry-free supply chain continuity.
  • Specialization in rapid prototyping and low-volume production.
  • PCBA development optimization for complex critical system industries like Aerospace, Medical Devices, Automotive, and Industrial.

Tempo Automation, the industry’s leader for fast, high-quality PCBA prototyping and  on-demand production, welcomes both in-person and virtual tours of its smart-factory located in Silicon Valley, especially if you’re considering optimizing your PCBA development process.

And to help you get started on the best path, we furnish information for your DFM checks and enable you to easily view and download DRC files. If you’re an Altium Designer or Cadence Allegro user, you can simply add these files to your PCB design software. For Mentor Pads or other design packages, we furnish DRC information in other CAD formats and Excel.

If you are ready to have your design manufactured, try our quote tool to upload your CAD and BOM files. If you want more information on the importance of or how to customize your Gemba walk checklist, contact us.

The latest PCB news delivered to your inbox.

Search Sign In