Thursday, July 18, 2013

Andon – Putting Quality at the Forefront

Al Norval

In a couple of recent blogs we’ve talked about Jidoka or Built in Quality at the Source. While it sounds easy, putting it into practice is very difficult. One of the primary reasons for this is it requires a fundamental change in our thinking or as we say a change in our Mental Models.

Let’s start by asking what is Jidoka?

It’s one of the pillars of the Lean Production System and can be defined as:

Providing machines and operators the ability to detect abnormalities and immediately stop work, then call for help and problem solve. At Toyota, it is also known as "autonomation with a human touch". Jidoka allows us to build quality into each process and to free up people from the need to “watch” machines work.

By following this, Jidoka allows machines to do what they do best, which is to detect abnormalities & stop the process and for humans to do what they do best which is to solve problems.

The key connection between the two is Andon which can be defined as:

A signal that notifies operators, supervisors, and maintenance of problems that are occurring at different places throughout the organization or facility. Typically a worker pulls a cord that lights up a signal board when he or she detects a defect. The best Andons will dictate real-time action.

A call for help has gone out. How the organization responds to this depends upon the Mental Models of the organization. If they respond quickly and swarm all over the problem correcting the defect before re-starting the line, they are experiencing the Mental Models of:
  • Problems are gold, treasure them!
  • Don’t pass junk down the line

If on the other hand, they either don’t respond or come out and play the blame game, they are demonstrating the traditional (non-Lean) Mental Models of:
  • Problems are garbage, bury them
  • Make the numbers or else

I encourage organizations who are thinking about putting in an Andon system, to work on their human response system first. Ensure you have the capability to respond quickly and problem solve quickly before attempting to go to line stop.

To succeed Andon, Jidoka and in fact all the Lean Tools require a change in our thinking which is only accomplished when we change in our mental models. Where is your organization’s thinking? Where is your organizations mental models? I’d love to hear from you.

For more on Mental Models, please see Lean Pathways.


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