Genba or Gemba?

Lots of posts recently on 5S and genba. A reader asked, "Why do you say genba instead of gemba?"

Actually I prefer to say "shop floor" or "office" or "in the shop", but that isn't all that catchy is it? :)

I have heard it both ways and have seen it written both ways as well. In particluar, the most recent Taiichi Ohno book, Workplace Management, uses "gen" with some explanation. If you are interested, Ohno does more wordplay and explanation of such in that book with other TPS words. Whether it is right or wrong, most people mean: "where the work is done", or "where the real thing happens."

A literal translation of genba means "actual place." This is provided via alta vista babel fish. The kanji I used comes from Wikipedia, where an interesting source for genba is found in Japanese Hip Hop (go figure).

I don't speak Japanese, so I'm no expert, but one can see a pattern in other similar words: genchi, genbutsu, genshou, etc. All of these are meaning to deal with "actuals" or "realities". I have some other posts on literal translations of Japanese lean words if you are interested. Here is one that starts with genba.


Most of my sources have come from books on Toyota, Japanese-English dictionaries and Asian contacts. Unfortunately, I haven't seen kanji for "gem" so I can't comment on literal translation provided by third party sources. With all of that said, I wouldn't be surprised to hear that gem and gen mean the same thing.



At August 31, 2008 at 11:43 PM , Blogger Doug said...

My Japanese is pretty rusty, but from memory, genba and gemba are the same word (just different transliterations). Check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romaji, in particular the "Historical romanizations" section down near the end of the table you'll see that the kanji can be either n or m (there probably are rules for which is correct, but I don't remember :))

At September 1, 2008 at 9:47 PM , Blogger Bryan said...

Thanks for stopping by Doug, and shedding some light on the matter. This confirms what I have heard from others.

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