The Obeya room is a "war room" used by process improvement teams to meet and solve critical multi functional problems. The room walls are lined up with boards, highly visual charts and graphs showing program timing, milestones and progress to date and countermeasures to existing timing or technical problems. The team meets in this room regularly but team members can also visit the room, which is fully dedicated to the project, throughout the day.
Obeya Room Benefits
- Remove organizational barriers
- Visual management by displaying all relevant data required in the improvement project
- Encourage a collaborative environment through regular meetings
- Implement quicker, more effective solutions
- The whole team knows what is going on in real time
Some Practical Constraints in the Implementation
- Some companies can't afford the luxury of a fully dedicated room
- Some of the team members may be located far away so they will only attend the meetings
- The data displayed on the walls may, very quickly, become obsolete: some team members may be too busy to physically go to the room to update their charts
- Some team members may attend the meetings unprepared because they didn't have the time to analyse the data in the walls before the meeting
Alternative: Virtual Obeya Room
The improvement team shares a folder in the cloud: Company intranet, Google Drive, Microsoft One Drive, etc.
This folder has the same charts and documents which were displayed in the physical Obeya room.
In this case each chart can be hyperlinked to other documents with more detailed information.
Each chart has an owner who has WRITE access and the rest of the team READ ONLY access.
Obeya meetings are still held the same way but they can take place in any room with a large display. The room is only used during the meeting and then it can be used for other meetings along the day.
Some people have their meetings standing in front of the screen to keep them short. You may want to use a standing table to hold the portables.
The owner of each document is able to update it from a portable in the office or anywhere with a smartphone. Even during the Obeya meeting.
The Obeya virtual room can be visited from anywhere at any time: for instance while visiting the line or a customer.
Some team members may be located in remote locations, in which case they can take part in the meetings with video-conference and have the same access to the virtual Obeya room as everyone else.
This alternative may be put in place for free in a very short period of time: no IS application is required.
This is one of the main files to manage the improvement project.
You can record the sequence of activities, who does it and when.
Commitments are recorded during the meetings and confirmation of completion can be recorded by the person responsible the moment it happens with a smartphone.
Process Value Stream Map
One of the charts in the Obeya room for a process improvement project is the Value Stream Map.
It is typically constructed by the project team after a detailed visit to the line and it may require more than one visit to clarify some specific points.
With the physical Obeya room this may require travelling to and from the line and may be time consuming.
An alternative is to build the VSM in the line itself while visiting with the smartphones or tablets of the participants:
- The VSM is built directly in the cloud (Google Drive or One Drive) and all participants visiting the line have write access.
- As they move along the line they all agree on who is doing what and when.
- Typing of the process steps in the Excel sheet can be done by voice.
- The VSM, as it is being built, can be shown to the line operators in order to validate it.
- After the VSM is complete the same method can be used to collect process parameters (process time, WIP, etc.) in the VSM Excel visiting the line.
Actions Tracking Spreadsheet
A key document in the Obeya room is a sheet to keep track of all the actions committed during the meetings: who is doing what and when.
In the virtual Obeya this can be done with a spreadsheet where all participants have WRITE access.
Google Drive keeps track of all changes made to the document: who did it and when.
Instead of committing actions "before the next meeting" you can commit date and time. The moment the action has taken place the person responsible can enter the timestamp it was done from a smartphone with a single click.
With this approach all team members have real time information on the project status at their fingertips no matter where they are.
Production schedule tracking
Job scheduling is critical for the line operations and everyone involved needs to be kept informed in real time of all the changes. Therefore the up-to-date schedule chart may be one to be included in the virtual Obeya.