New Lean Tour Format Offers Lessons for Hosts and Attendees

Go to Gemba with the Iowa Lean Consortium

Those experienced in Lean methodology will connect with the word Gemba, which reminds leaders to go and see where the work is done and to talk to people doing the work. Going to Gemba is a core tenet of Lean philosophy, and now the ILC is using Gemba experiences to drive more collaboration among Iowa businesses.

ILC staff members experienced a new approach to Lean Tour when they accompanied a group of ILC members to Kentucky in 2023. On that trip, they went to Gemba, observed the power of feedback sessions with the host companies, and decided to bring the idea back to Iowa.

Gemba Tour Participants
Gemba tour participants in action.

The ILC tested the new approach by hosting 23 ILC members at Spartech LLC and Helena Industries in Pleasant Hill, Iowa. These tours encouraged mutual learning and insights, promoting a culture of shared growth and continuous improvement.

The hosting companies shared their histories and the paths they have taken toward continuous improvement and then provided guided tours of their facilities. After the tours, the attendees were encouraged to provide constructive feedback to the companies. The attendees not only learned from the hosts but were able to give the hosts ideas for improving their processes.

Tour participant Riley Speed from Superior Tube shared, “I valued the transparent discussion on what enhances continuous improvement efforts. A key takeaway was integrating our overarching strategy into our Managing for Daily Improvement boards. The way Helena Industries showcased their strategic challenges on their Kata Boards was particularly impressive.”

Joe Patava from Advanced Heat Treat in Waterloo noted, “The opportunity to visit two facilities in one day, each at different points in their Lean journey, was invaluable. It was enlightening to compare and contrast, especially seeing them consecutively.”

For more information or to host your own Lean Learning Tour, contact Tracy Schuster at or 515-715-0164.