Andon, What is It?
Chances are you have seen the andon system before. Chances are you may have engaged with the andon system before. The term andon is a Japanese term that refers to a system of notification which is widely used in many industries today. The word andon can be translated as "signal" or "sign." Simply put andon is a visual alert which highlights an area that needs support.
Just think if you were walking through a machine shop and every one out of ten machines was down. That would-be ten percent of your production for every ten machines. The andon system helps notify others of a need for support. If the proper personnel can be notified quickly of a line stop, the proper support can help contain the problem and eventually get the line moving again. Likewise, the system works in offices, healthcare and food industries.
How does the Andon System work?
The Andon system is a fairly simple, yet a very valuable system. A worker notices a problem or an abnormality, the worker then pulls a line, presses a button or activates a "trigger" by some other means. The photo above was taken in a lobby at Toyota, where lines were used to begin the trigger. The trigger then highlights the area where the problem is by visual and sometimes other sensory means. Once the area is highlighted a support team can then identify where the problem is and come to help resolve the issue through the application of countermeasures. Some of the common situations the andon system might be used in are: shortage of parts, defects found, a tool not working properly and most importantly if a safety issue is found. You may have seen the andon system in a grocery store or other retail outlets. When a checker needs support, they will normally flip a switch which notifies a team leader, manager or other employee that they need support. Whatever the abnormality the magic of the andon system is in the response. As soon as a trigger is engaged a team leader responds within seconds ultimately containing the issue and facilitating a root cause analysis of the issue. If the problem cannot be resolved the line will stop and further analysis will be performed. The idea is to contain a problem and resolve it as quick as possible however when this does not occur the andon system normally incorporates other means of capturing the issue and facilitating a much deeper investigation.
Using a system like the andon system ultimately prevents defects. Whether those defects are data related, health related, part related or transactional the andon system is one of the most effective ways to expose the hidden factory and prevent issues in the future which ultimately leads to a smoother flow.
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