What does your Andon System tell you? Typically, it is a manufacturing process that says there is something wrong and your attention is wrong. The word Andon simply means ‘lantern.’ Just like any other light, its presence tells us of a problem. But is it the act of the light or is it what the light signifies? The true essence of the Andon is to signify a circumstance and that is supposed to trigger a certain set of actions. The question is, what does your team do when the Andon is activated?
The Vital Core of an Andon System
The response or actions of your team is the true test of what an Andon system is all about. It is a core element of Lean practice, just as important as the 5s, the A3s or the 5 whys. There are five important elements of the Andon system that make it more than just a lantern:
- Agree to What a Problem Is – You must identify and agree what constitutes a problem that triggers an Anadon. Some say a 3% variance, others say 10%. That is conflict and chaos.
- Detecting the Problem – Does the operator ‘feel’ behind or out of control, or is it just their emotional state and not the reality? What mechanism do you use to separate fact from emotion?
- Raising the Alarm – There must be agreement on how the Andon system is activated. The mechanism must be clear, concise and easy to use within the work flow.
- Who Responds – The precision of who responds to an Andon alarm is crucial, just like any other part of your work flow. The responsibility of response would be clear up and down the chain of command.
- Agreement of Response – Be clear on not only on who responds, but what type of response to the Andon alarm is crucial. An operator must be confident on exactly what is going to happen and how long it will take, every time! That way they can stay focused on the problem at hand and be confident of the response.
Give It The Respect It Deserves
You know that sometimes Andon alarms are received with a tepid response. Next time you are in a public place, look around and pay attention to the response to a fire alarm. In many situations, that type of Andon alarm is lacking a sense of urgency. That is truly alarming! If you approach your Andon system with seriousness and apply these five points, you will see the results you desire. Further you will be confident and comfortable in the fact that a part of your Lean practice is working to the level of effectiveness you expect. Be clear and be consistent.
If you’d like to learn more about Andon, check out these articles:
- What is Andon in the Toyota Production System?
- Customer Service Andon Cord: Jeff Bezos and Customer Experience