Foreword

In recent decades, we have seen huge benefits from innovation and the introduction of new technologies. Whether it was the emergence of Microsoft Windows in the eighties, Amazon in the nineties or the benefits of current technology trends such as Big Data and Artificial Intelligence, our consumer and business life has changed for the better. 

This innovation has helped business improve production and operational efficiencies, as well as customer satisfaction, whilst at the same time helping to free workers from some of the more arduous and historically dangerous job roles. 

Well before and throughout this period Panasonic has also continued to innovate for more than 100 years; from the first attachment plug in 1918 to rechargeable batteries and rugged mobile computing for business. The principles that guide Panasonic’s untiring effort for improvement and its adaptability are written into the company’s DNA.

Whilst manufacturers and their factories are already taking advantage of the ability to automate and digitalise their business, many other industry sectors are just beginning to discover how technology can assist in this new world. The explosion of e-commerce, for example, is placing new pressures on the retail and logistics industries unlike any seen before.

Drawing on its wide breadth of technology solution experience, Panasonic is now helping these organisations to address their challenges through Gemba Process Innovation. Following in the footsteps of kaizen and continuous improvement, Gemba Process Innovation draws on all Panasonic’s business, technology and solutions know-how; and helps businesses use technology alongside process innovation to improve productivity and customer satisfaction whilst freeing the workforce to focus on more engaging and empowering work.

I encourage you to read on to find out more about Panasonic’s approach and how by working together we could revolutionise your business.

Mr Tetsuya Fujiwara

Managing Director of Panasonic Systems Communication Company Europe (PSCEU)

Introducing Gemba

Companies are facing massive disruption in their production sites and supply chains triggered by a whole range of emerging trends and technologies. Social trends such as worker shortages and lifestyle changes; and technological advances such as artificial intelligence, intelligent edge devices, and the explosion of e-commerce.

Faced with this rapidly shifting landscape, companies need to optimise the flow of information from things and people at their operational fronts. Gemba is the physical site where these things happen. This Japanese word literally translates to "the actual place".

For instance, in supply chain management, 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 point s-of -sale; these are referred to as the gemba. 

Each has their own unique processes and goals, but also their own peculiar 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?

These developments are not just affecting manufacturers and retailers, but also the logistics industry, which all face pressure to revolutionise their processes. All these industries know technology can give them greater clarity, simplicity and efficiency. But the pathway to this evolution is not always clear or well-trodden.

Through its Gemba Process Innovation offering, Panasonic’s goal is to provide that know-how and become a trusted total integrator for clients.  Why Panasonic? We have three particular strengths:

Firstly, we have accumulated a wealth of manufacturing know-how. Panasonic is continually monitoring, analysing, and improving processes across its hundreds of global production sites. It has amassed a systematic body of knowledge that can be effectively adapted to generate operational solutions for diverse clients. Few other companies can boast such systematic and actionable knowledge of the gemba. 

Secondly, we have differentiated technology. From robotics to next generation communications, image processing, and sensing, we have unrivalled technologies and high-performance hardware that can be used to "draw up" information to help optimise processes at the ground level. Moreover, we have experience in universal design and user interfaces accumulated from consumer electronics. This gives us a further edge over our rivals in user-intuitive gemba design. 

Thirdly — and importantly — we have trust. Business to business represents 70 per cent of our sales. We have a very strong base of customers in fields as varied as the public sector, transport, retail, manufacturing, avionics and entertainment. With each of our clients, we commit to an ethos of working closely to first fully understand, and then be able to improve their operations, from factory floor to delivery. We are proud to not only make highly reliable products, but also always being available to provide support and advice to clients using our hardware.

These strengths make us a natural choice for those wanting to entrust us for improvements in their gemba. 

Panasonic and the Gemba

Over its 100-year history of manufacturing and operating a global enterprise, Panasonic has accumulated a wealth of knowledge about how to innovate processes and how to manage complex logistics — to ship our goods safely to every region of the world.

Thousands of daily incremental adjustments to streamline production processes — meticulously fine-tuning what we do best — are what drives our company forward.

This accumulation of gemba knowledge is what generates our constantly evolving, high-quality products, and it’s what enables us to protect profit margins and stay competitive in the global economy. 

In recent years, we have accelerated and gained exciting momentum around this learning by aggressively adopting advancements in technology — from robotics to sensors, intelligent edge devices and artificial intelligence. 

Daily, in our 325 global production sites, our technologies are accumulating masses of data about the movement of workers and machines. In this way, our company presides over a growing body of ever more systematic knowledge about gemba processes. 

What do we do with this knowledge?

Our know-how has helped to minimize waste, reduce our environmental footprint and improve worker training and safety, whilst all-the-while generating added value in our products for our clients. All of these benefits contribute to lifting our productivity and profitability. 

We now plan to offer this gemba knowledge to our clients, alongside our business solutions.

Gemba Process Innovation

Gemba Process Innovation is our major initiative around B2B solutions that leverages Panasonic's manufacturing know-how and core technologies to innovate customers’ processes in production, logistics, and retail. 

Panasonic is shifting its focus from not just selling hardware and things, but to providing integrated solutions to our enterprise clients. 

Gemba Process Innovation operates within the context of three areas: 

Manufacturing — where things are made. 

Transportation logistics — how things get from A to B and this includes the entire logistics supply chain from raw materials getting to factories to finished goods being packaged, labeled, sorted, transported, and distributed.

Retail Point of Sale or Point of Interaction — where a consumer or an end user interacts with that product in some way.

In each area, we help our clients to connect the “physical gemba” layer with the “digital” layer — integrating to connect individual gembas to the central system to continuously improve processes and outputs. 

Gemba Process Innovation in Action: Manufacturing, Logistics and Retail industries

1. Manufacturing

Gemba Process Innovation in operation at Panasonic's Saga Factory in Japan.

This isn’t mass production with a single process fine-tuned over time, this is a super-agile gemba that can produce small lot sizes efficiently and then switch quickly to producing something entirely differently.

The Saga Factory, in southern Japan, is a "showcase" for the company's manufacturing and supply-chain process solutions. It is the core global production site for Panasonic’s Business to Business operations. It manufactures a broad range of products in varying lot sizes — the majority of which are less than 100 items — and often in infrequent cycles, including payment terminals, security cameras, scanners, sound audio devices, and cooling equipment, among other things. 

This isn’t mass production with a single process fine-tuned over time, this is a super-agile gemba that can produce small lot sizes efficiently and then switch quickly to producing something entirely differently. 

Saga is unique not only because of the variety and complexity of its operations, but because of the ceaseless flow of external visitors to its factory floors. Hundreds of companies — not only in the manufacturing sector but also in logistics, distribution, and retail — have toured it. These businesses all come to learn how production processes are becoming ever more efficient in our cutting-edge factory floors.

Saga is full of connected and smart technologies that could help clients improve their gemba: head-mount-displays and bone conduction headsets helping workers conduct and inspect work quickly and accurately; "parallel link robots" that workers can use to replicate complex, ultra-precise movements of veteran workers; moveable network cameras on the ceiling and beacons across the floor to record the flow and activities of workers. 

All of this know-how is constantly feeding into productivity gains. The data "drawn up" from our own hardware captures the know-how of the most skilled and veteran workers, while training new ones. It can be used to optimise personnel number and locations, the layout of factories and flow of production lines. 

Roughly 180 companies visited our Saga Factory last year alone. It is an experimental lab and "showroom" for Panasonic's Business to Business solutions business.

2. Logistics

Increasing efficiencies at one of the world's largest logistics companies.

This solution has increased staff productivity, increased sorting capacity and efficiency and reduced the need for staff training.

How to increase the speed and efficiency of parcel sorting for one of the world’s largest logistics companies was the challenge for Panasonic’s European Gemba Process Innovation team. Relying on workers to sort packages based on manually reading labels was labour intensive, slow and unreliable.

By interviewing key personnel and analysing inbound and outbound freight types and volumes, Panasonic was able to present a tailored Visual Sort Assist (VSA) solution. The Panasonic solution combined scanning technology and projection to speed up the process of sorting parcels on a conveyor belt at one of the largest global logistics companies. By using technology to automatically scan the parcel label on the conveyor belt and projecting a large visual delivery number onto the parcel, workers can easily pick up the parcel and place it in the correct delivery area without having to read each delivery address in detail.

Following a three-month proof of concept, with agreed key performance indicators, the solution was given the go ahead for full implementation. Panasonic installed the solution and trained staff. The result was increased staff productivity, increased sorting capacity and efficiency and reduced need for staff training.

Equipping Post NL for increasing parcel delivery demands.

Ensures perfect delivery, every time, and offers customers visibility on the status of their shipments.

With online sales across Europe predicted to reach €450.2 billion by 2021, business and consumer buying habits have had a massive impact on the postal and delivery industry, with a 69% increase in European parcel deliveries forecast by 2021.

With this increased workload has come an urgency to find new, more efficient and effective ways of working, as the technology infrastructure and the workforce struggle under the strain.  When Post NL, the largest parcel delivery company in Benelux, wanted to offer customers improved real-time tracking of their deliveries, from sorting centers to delivery address they turned to Panasonic.

After studying Post NL’s requirements, Panasonic recommended a combined software and hardware solution for the business. Working hand-in-hand with Panasonic, Post NL conducted field trials using new Panasonic rugged handhelds and ZetesChronos delivery software to test performance. The electronic proof-of-delivery software helps control and improve collection, delivery and related management processes. It connects drivers, back-office workers and logistics management to provide real-time visibility on goods, vehicles and returnable assets. This ensures perfect delivery, every time, and offers customers visibility on the status of their shipments. The 5,000 Panasonic TOUGHBOOK N1 handheld devices were chosen for their scanning speed, long battery life and durability, and in particular, the ergonomic design and angled barcode scanner.

3. Retail

European supermarket retailer Automated Shelf Monitoring for out of stock management.

Supermarket business sees customer satisfaction and revenues rise by reducing out of stock items

When a major European supermarket retailer realised it had an average 8% of its items out of stock at any one time, resulting in increased customer dissatisfaction and a 4% revenue loss, they called in Panasonic to address the problem.

Panasonic worked closely with the supermarket’s supply chain management team to analyse customer buying patterns alongside ordering and delivery processes to identify potential enhancements.  The recommendation was an Automated Shelf Monitoring (ASM) solution. Following a proof of concept trial, a full business case was produced and accepted.

The ASM solution uses cameras and artificial intelligence to constantly monitor the retailer’s shelves to predict when stock will run low and reorders in a timely manner.

The result has been a significant reduction in empty shelves, improved customer satisfaction and rising revenues.

Panasonic Business: Solutions for Optimising Business

Freedom. It's in our DNA

At Panasonic, we believe freedom in business is as important as it is in life. So, for more than a century we’ve been restlessly innovating, developing technology to make work easier, quicker, better. Challenging convention and breaking down barriers, so businesses can push their ideas to the limit – and achieve their full potential.

And our latest offering for our business customers is possibly our greatest – Gemba Process Innovation. It starts by understanding your business challenges and working together with you to examine every gemba; every area where core operations are undertaken, to see how we can bring technology solutions to your business to improve effectiveness and efficiencies.

It’s why we are restructuring our Panasonic business in every area to bring together gemba-focused teams. Bringing the best of our business consultants, analysts, designers and engineers together to focus on delivering business enhancing solutions to our customers in the manufacturing, logistics and retail industries.

We want to extend an invitation to all our customers to allow us help them re-examine their processes at frontline operations to find new and improved ways of working. Let us deploy our business understanding, our knowledge, and our vast technologies and experience of business process innovation to help your business to thrive.