The andon system alerts managerial, maintenance, or other staff of a production process problem. The alert itself can be activated manually with a button or pull cord, but it can also be activated automatically by production equipment. Most Andon boards utilize three colored lights similar to a traffic signal: green (no errors), yellow or amber (problem identified, or quality check needed), and red (production stopped due to unidentified issue).
Understanding the andon system
The andon system is an aspect of lean manufacturing that alerts employees to a problem in a production process.
Andon is one of the principle elements of the Jidoka quality control method that is described as “intelligent automation” or “automation with a human touch”.
Jidoka is in turn part of the Toyota Production System (TPS) that empowers personnel to halt the production process without managerial approval if an error occurs.
The focus of Andon is to locate the root cause of a problem and resolve it as quickly as practicable.
Once the employee has been alerted of a problem, the aim is to stop the process and prevent the error from continuing down the line.
How does the andon system work?
The word “andon” is derived from a type of Japanese lantern or light. In Toyota factories, the Andon board is a large sign that displays the status of each assembly line section.
The sign is difficult to miss and is an effective way to instantly communicate problems.
When a worker pulls the cord or pushes the button in a particular section, that section is illuminated on the Andon board and indicates a problem that requires assistance.
There may also be other visual and audio notifications such as horns and alarm bells.
Most Andon boards utilize three colored lights similar to a traffic signal:
Normal assembly line operations with no errors. Work should continue as usual.
Yellow or amber
When a problem has been identified and employees must assist the operator or perform product quality checks.
When production has stopped because the issue has not been rectified.
Employees should consult with the team leader or have a supervisor check the area to fix the problem before production recommences.
The andon system at Amazon
Outside of lean manufacturing, the andon system supports Amazon’s obsession with the customer and waste avoidance (frugality) mindset.
When an individual contacts customer service about a product issue, the Amazon staff member can pause production if they suspect a problem with the company’s inventory.
When this occurs, the item is removed from the Amazon marketplace to stop others from encountering the same issue.
This has enabled the company to reduce the number of product returns and support requests, and Amazon has automated systems to restart production or order fulfillment once the problem has been rectified.
Andon principles are also incorporated into systems that scan for subpar customer experiences.
When Amazon Video On Demand was released, customers who experienced playback issues were issued refunds.
This system likely also exists in Amazon Prime Video.
According to German management consultancy Think Insights, just 0.03% of all products in the Amazon marketplace are flagged in the andon way at any given time.
- The andon system is an aspect of lean manufacturing that alerts employees to a problem in a production process. The word “andon” is derived from a type of Japanese lantern, with Andon boards in Toyota factories displaying green, yellow, and red status lights for different sections of the assembly line.
- Andon is one of the principle elements of the Jidoka quality control method which is part of the Toyota Production System (TPS). This system empowers personnel to halt the production process without managerial approval if an error occurs.
- Outside of lean manufacturing, the andon system supports Amazon’s obsession with the customer and waste avoidance (frugality) mindset. Andon addresses product-related issues before they affect other buyers and also identifies subpar customer experiences across Amazon’s various services.
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