What Is Jidoka? Jidoka In A Nutshell

Jidoka was first used in 1896 by Sakichi Toyoda, who invented a textile loom that would stop automatically when it encountered a defective thread. Jidoka is a Japanese term used in lean manufacturing. The term describes a scenario where machines cease operating without human intervention when a problem or defect is discovered.

Understanding Jidoka

Jidoka then became one of the three pillars of the Toyota Production System (TPS) after Toyoda’s son Kiichiro transformed the textile company into an automobile manufacturer.

The concept facilitates autonomation, defined as automation with a human touch. Having a human watch over a machine constantly is both physically demanding and prone to error. For example, a worker required to inspect every part of a machine for one defect will quickly experience tired eyes or repetitive strain injuries.

Defect rates in most processes are well below 1%, which means a worker employed to look for them would become bored very easily. Since Jidoka automates error detection, the business can reassign the employee to a more productive role.

Like most aspects of lean manufacturing, Jidoka exists to minimize waste and improve efficiency. Before modern businesses adopted the concept, manufacturing defects were not detected until long after they had occurred. In some cases, the product had already been sold to a consumer before a problem was identified.

The four principles of Jidoka

Four simple principles of Jidoka exist, with each playing a role in preventing defects from reaching the customer.

Each principle takes the form of a step:

  1. Discover an abnormality (automated). In an ideal world, abnormalities are prevented by building quality into a process from the start and not by inspecting for quality at the end. Tools such as Kanban and 5S can also help discover problems before they occur.
  2. Stop (automated). Stopping the line is as important as developing a culture where doing so is accepted and not feared. Many Western businesses fear a loss of productivity when the line is constantly stopped for problems. However, Jidoka favors addressing minor issues before they have a chance to become major issues.
  3. Fix the immediate problem (human). At companies such as Toyota, line interruptions are a way of life. When operators detect a problem, supervisors are immediately notified to help solve the problem. If the solution is an easy fix, the problem is rectified and the line restarted. If not, the appropriate expertise is called in for support.
  4. Investigate and correct the root cause by installing a countermeasure (human). Despite being notified of problems by superior technology, some businesses still find it difficult to correct the problem and identify the root cause. To ensure problems are solved once and for all, personnel should be trained in root cause identification techniques. Then, any change to relevant operating procedures must be documented and communicated to the staff. 

Key takeaways:

  • Jidoka is a Japanese term used in lean manufacturing which promotes autonomation, or automation with a human touch. It was developed by Sakichi Toyoda, whose son would eventually found the Toyota Motor Company.
  • Jidoka exists to minimize waste and improve efficiency. This is achieved by detecting errors before they occur through automation, which frees up employees to be assigned to more productive roles.
  • Jidoka is based on four simple principles, with each representing a step in the error detection process. Discovering the abnormality and stopping the line should be automated, while fixing the immediate problem, and correcting the root cause by installing a countermeasure is performed by workers.

Other Lean Manufacturing Frameworks

Toyota Production System

The Toyota Production System (TPS) is an early form of lean manufacturing created by auto-manufacturer Toyota. Created by the Toyota Motor Corporation in the 1940s and 50s, the Toyota Production System seeks to manufacture vehicles ordered by customers most quickly and efficiently possible.

Gemba Walk

A Gemba Walk is a fundamental component of lean management. It describes the personal observation of work to learn more about it. Gemba is a Japanese word that loosely translates as “the real place”, or in business, “the place where value is created”. The Gemba Walk as a concept was created by Taiichi Ohno, the father of the Toyota Production System of lean manufacturing. Ohno wanted to encourage management executives to leave their offices and see where the real work happened. This, he hoped, would build relationships between employees with vastly different skillsets and build trust.

Kaizen Approach

Kaizen is a process developed by the auto industry. Its roots are found in the Toyota Production System, which was heavily influenced by Henry Ford’s assembly line system. The word Kaizen is a hybridization of two Japanese words, “kai” meaning “change” and “zen” meaning “good.” Two of the basic tenets of Kaizen involve making small incremental changes – or 1% improvement every day – and the full participation of everyone. 


Poka-yoke is a Japanese quality control technique developed by former Toyota engineer Shigeo Shingo. Translated as “mistake-proofing”, poka-yoke aims to prevent defects in the manufacturing process that are the result of human error. Poka-yoke is a lean manufacturing technique that ensures that the right conditions exist before a step in the process is executed. This makes it a preventative form of quality control since errors are detected and then rectified before they occur.


Scrum is a methodology co-created by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland for effective team collaboration on complex products. Scrum was primarily thought for software development projects to deliver new software capability every 2-4 weeks. It is a sub-group of agile also used in project management to improve startups’ productivity.

Six Sigma

Six Sigma is a data-driven approach and methodology for eliminating errors or defects in a product, service, or process. Six Sigma was developed by Motorola as a management approach based on quality fundamentals in the early 1980s. A decade later, it was popularized by General Electric who estimated that the methodology saved them $12 billion in the first five years of operation.

Value Stream Mapping

Value stream mapping uses flowcharts to analyze and then improve on the delivery of products and services. Value stream mapping (VSM) is based on the concept of value streams – which are a series of sequential steps that explain how a product or service is delivered to consumers.

Kanban Framework

Kanban is a lean manufacturing framework first developed by Toyota in the late 1940s. The Kanban framework is a means of visualizing work as it moves through identifying potential bottlenecks. It does that through a process called just-in-time (JIT) manufacturing to optimize engineering processes, speed up manufacturing products, and improve the go-to-market strategy.


A SMART goal is any goal with a carefully planned, concise, and trackable objective. To be such a goal needs to be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based. Bringing structure and trackability to goal setting increases the chances goals will be achieved, and it helps align the organization around those goals.

TQM Framework

The Total Quality Management (TQM) framework is a technique based on the premise that employees continuously work on their ability to provide value to customers. Importantly, the word “total” means that all employees are involved in the process – regardless of whether they work in development, production, or fulfillment.


Ikigai is a Japanese philosophy combining the terms iki, meaning “life” or “alive”, and gai, meaning “worth” or “benefit”. Together, these terms describe life’s purpose or meaning. In many English-speaking countries, ikigai is defined as a reason to get out of bed in the morning. An ikigai diagram is a powerful framework based on Japanese philosophy for discovering one’s life purpose.

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