Toyota Way Principle #5 – Identifying Problems

Posted on May 21, 2012 | in Defects, Lean Tools, Lean Wastes, Maintenance, Time Savings | by

As previously posted, the fifth principle from The Toyota Way:

“Build a culture of stopping to fix problems, to get quality right the first time.”

In order to stop and fix a problem, you must first be able to identify a problem. We have to recognize a difference between a correct scenario and a problematic scenario.

There are a few different ways to identify problems as they are occurring. One of them is with baseline standards. In general, a baseline standard is an example of a perfect scenario – a perfectly-timed process, a perfect part with zero defects, a photographic example of a standardized layout – and is used for comparison purposes between what is deemed perfect (the baseline standard) and what is the current scenario (what you just produced or are visualizing).

As a manufacturing operator is receiving parts from an injection molding press, the operator can compare the newly-created part to the standard part and see if there are any significant differences. If there are, then there’s a problem and it should be rectified right away.

However, this leaves a lot of opportunity for error to occur. Human judgment will have lots of outside factors that could impact the accuracy of the checks (maybe lots of noise, poor lighting, questionable ranges of acceptability). In addition, what if the process was lengthy and the actual problem occurrence happens early in the process, well before it can be detected? If the identification of a problem lags far behind where it actually occurs, there is wasted product and scrap between those points that is essentially money being thrown away.

That’s why one of the key contributing pieces of the Toyota Production System is what’s called the andon system. The andon system is a mechanical implementation that can detect problems in a process and alert the operator to a problem or shut the process down itself. If the andon system can identify key points in a process or key characteristics of a part as it’s being produced, it can help reduce a lot of waste.

A good example of the andon system in real life? Your car’s “service engine soon” light on the dashboard. The car’s operating system detects a problem and alerts the operator (you, the driver) to an anomaly. In addition, diagnostic computers hooked up to your car can decode signals from the car operating system to determine where the problem exists. Today, user interfaces in cars are so advanced that they can bypass the mechanic’s diagnostic computers and simply tell you what the problem is.

The term jidoka┬árefers to “machines with human intelligence” – in the Toyota Production System, it’s a way of building in quality into the process so that time and money isn’t wasted on producing unsatisfactory parts.

If problems can be a) detected right away as they occur, and b) immediately rectified, you will be well on your way of not only creating a culture of fixing problems as they occur but you’ll also find that problems do not persist and drag you down long-term.

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2 Responses to “Toyota Way Principle #5 – Identifying Problems”

  1. Pingback: NFL Replacement Officials and Quality Defects | Lean Blitz – Do it better.

  2. Pingback: Visual Indicators and Habemus Papam!! | Lean Blitz – Do it better.

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