Andon – Subtle Difference Changes Mindset

Last week, I got a refresher and a deeper understanding the lean principles as presented by the Lean Learning Center.  One thing deeper understanding I got was around andon (or signals).  We started the week off by doing a case study around Toyota.  The case study introduces the andon system that is on the production lines at Toyota.

A quick overview of the system.  When an operator has an issue, any issue, they pull a cord at the line.  The cord sets off music and lights telling the team leader their is a problem.  The team leader responds immediately and asks, “What is the problem?  How can I help?”

The first time I took the class, 3 years ago, I learned to use sound with the lights.  In case the team leader wasn’t looking in the direction of the lights, the sound would tell them the problem.  I have used this thinking in the last three years to install a few andon systems.

For three years, I looked at sound and lights as a way to get the team leader’s attention.  Here is the subtle difference that I learned this time. Use the sound to alert the team leader of a problem and the lights to indicate where the problem is.

I know this is very subtle, but had I taking this understanding in the past, I would have implemented some andon systems differently.  In some cases, I did you sound and lights to alert and tell where, but that was purely by accident.  In some cases, I used sound and light just to alert and the the team leader had to find out where.  Having this small change to my understanding gives me a whole new perspective on signaling when there is a problem.  It allows me to put in systems with even less waste now.

I know this may seem small, but it has caused me to go back think about the small things and WHY I do them.  It has me questioning things I haven’t question in a long time or ever before.  It re-emphasized the importance of why.

As lean thinkers, implementers, teachers, and coaches we should always be thinking about the why and gaining a deeper understanding.

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Posted on November 24, 2010, in Learning, Principles, Tools, Waste and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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