An example that is studied quite often is the andon cord on the Toyota production line. When an operator has an issue, they pull the cord and the team leader responds immediately. The team leader responds with the questions, “What’s the problem? How can I help?”
While andon is a tool that is associated with manufacturing, it is applicable anywhere. A great example was a team from Human Resources that I facilitated during a kaizen event to reduce the amount of time from department request to candidate offer for a new hire. During the Day One training, I explained the Toyota andon system in detail and the purpose behind it. Two days later, the team, which had no lean exposure prior to the event, came up with an andon system for their hiring process.
The team discovered during the product-process mapping exercise that it only takes a few minutes to review a resume and give feedback by the hiring manager but they had a range of 4 – 20 days to actually get the feedback from the hiring manager. The team decided on a reasonable reduced lead time for reviewing resumes and then designed a process to show when it was out of tolerance.
The process was as follows:
- The hiring manager had 48 hrs to give feedback on a resume when it was sent to them
- If no response in 48 hrs, an email was sent to the hiring manager and their HR representative with an additional 48 hrs to respond
- If no response after the second 48 hrs, an email was sent to the hiring manager, their HR representative, and the hiring manager’s manager with a response due in 24 hrs.
- If no response within 24 hrs, an email was sent to the same three people in step 3 stating the hiring process for that position has been put on hold and no more resumes or work will be done until they all meet on the current resumes in process
I thought this was a great way to show when a problem was occurring and when it was too far out of tolerance. It didn’t mean they couldn’t take longer to review. If HR sent the resume and the hiring manager replied that they were out of the office and would get to it by a certain date, that would be sufficient for HR. They would be aware of an abnormal condition and would running the process for that condition.
This was one of two main drivers to reduce the lead time on the process from 92 days to 43 days.
It shows how a manufacturing centered concept can be applied outside of manufacturing when the reason for the concept is understood and not just copied.