The Virtual Sensei: Using Assisted Reality to Digitalize Gemba Walks
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Original version2022 IEEE International Conference on Industrial Engineering and Engineering Management (IEEM). 2022, 0320-0323. 10.1109/IEEM55944.2022.9989898
As more and more companies adopt lean management as a system to continuously develop people, leaders are increasingly intent on conducting gemba walks. This means going to the workplace, be it production, engineering, or supply chain - to explore and discover important business challenges - often under the guidance of a sensei. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated social distancing measures and travel restrictions, physical meetings in the workplace have been hampered, especially those involving outsiders. This has since led organizations to consider reducing travels and physical gatherings in general. Therefore, in this paper, we present assisted reality technology as a means of digitalizing gemba walks, allowing managers and executives to benefit from working with external sensei – albeit on a remote basis. We explore the use of RealWear HMT-1 technology as an enabler of the virtual sensei concept, comparing it with the more traditional face-to-face approach to gemba walks and offering insights from multiple interventions between external sensei offsite and local management representatives onsite. The assisted reality approach has been tested both within and across international borders. In general, we find that the digitalization of gemba walks using assisted reality offers multiple benefits over more traditional means. However, there are also several limitations. As such, this work has implications for both research and practice, in that we contribute towards the growing literature on digital lean manufacturing as well as offer practical guidelines for managers and executives embarking on a lean transformation.