What does Gemba Process Improvement mean for retail?

Whenever I mention Gemba Process Innovation (GPI) to a customer, I tend to be met by a blank stare. As this concept is quickly becoming central to the Panasonic philosophy, I thought I would explain what it means and why it has garnered the attention of a number of major retailers. 

GPI is a continuous improvement approach that goes beyond its predecessors, such as kaizen and kata. It leverages Panasonic technology to provide valuable insights into operations.  So why is it needed, now more than ever?


Changing with the times

It’s no secret that the retail industry is undergoing a massive transformation. Global e-commerce sales are expected to reach 3.35 trillion US dollars in 2019. This will account for an estimated 13.7 per cent of total transaction value. And as online shopping continues to gain traction, bricks-and-mortar stores must adapt.

Customers still want a place where they can see products first-hand and interact directly with sales staff. With this in mind, retailers must redefine the role of the physical outlet – in particular, as part of a wider omnichannel strategy. The focus has to shift from just securing immediate sales to delivering a pleasant and powerful brand experience – to build loyalty and to generate the halo effect.

However, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. This is where GPI comes in.






There is no place like Gemba

Gemba Process Innovation was developed and trademarked by Panasonic, and draws on our technology and solution know-how, and more than 100 years’ experience helping businesses solve unique challenges. In addition to enhancing overall efficiency, we help retailers create a more memorable and engaging customer experience.  And it all begins at the physical location.

The Japanese word “Gemba” translates to “the actual place”. So when implementing GPI, Panasonic starts off by visiting the places where core operations are performed. Once on-site, we carry out an in-depth analysis by working closely with the retailer to develop hypotheses and by capturing large quantities of relevant data.  The latter can, for example, included installing CCTV systems and various sensors. This information allows us to have a firm understanding of the location, processes and any underlying issues. Based on the insights we gain, we create a clear problem statement and propose relevant countermeasures. These can range from simple tweaks to operations to the introduction of completely new and customised technologies. Panasonic’s role is that of a trusted partner: we work hand in glove with retailers every step of the way, including equipment installation and maintenance.

Redefining convenience

GPI is currently being performed in Japan as part of a joint project with FamilyMart, a major chain of franchise convenience stores. We are working to create a next-generation shop – operated by a dedicated Panasonic subsidiary. We are deploying various IoT, sensor and image-analysis and facial recognition technologies to capture data on consumer behaviour and more, for instance to improve flowlines, enhance in-store atmospherics, free up staff and cut costs. This pioneering shop is expected to have a major impact on how convenience stores are run in Japan. To learn more about this project, see Sean Taylor’s recent blog.

Retailers have to find new ways to run their business, particularly their physical outlets. And Panasonic is the ideal partner to achieve this aim – leveraging GPI to help companies plot their own individual path through this transformative period.

If you want more information around GPI and how Panasonic is helping retailers today, please feel free to contact us. Or, alternatively, visit our website.