What is Andon?

What is Andon principle?

Andon is a Japanese word for “paper lantern” and it is used also for “light” or “lamp.

The Andon principle refers to a method used by frontline workers to quickly communicate to leaders about problems within the work, that need to initiate the escalation process for rapid solving.

Andon in Lean manufacturing is a system designed to alert about problems in real-time so that corrective measures can be applied immediately. It’s part of the Built-in Quality concept within the Toyota Production System, which empowers frontline people to stop the work when they find an abnormality.

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How does an Andon system work?

The basic condition for Andon visualization is to have in each workplace, a way (manual or automatic) for the operators to signal the presence of any abnormal condition and receive quick assistance to fix the issue.

The Andon signal can be done with many solutions using alarms, cords, colored cones, monitors, lights, music, or a combination of these.

The significance of Andon’s colors:

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  • When Andon is in Red, it means that specific activity must stop in order to immediately introduce countermeasures to eliminate the negative impact and prevent re-occurrence.
  • When Andon is in Yellow, it means that that process is working under special conditions (derogation, degraded mode, etc) and might have some additional temporary operations in place (supplementary inspection and/ or operations) to mitigate the risk, until the root cause of the problem will be identified and fixed.
  • When Andon is in Green, it means the process is working at the standard conditions.
  • When Andon is in Red, it means that specific activity must stop in order to immediately introduce countermeasures to eliminate the negative impact and prevent re-occurrence.
  • When Andon is in Yellow, it means that that process is working under special conditions (derogation, degraded mode, etc) and might have some additional temporary operations in place (supplementary inspection and/ or operations) to mitigate the risk, until the root cause of the problem will be identified and fixed.
  • When Andon is in Green, it means the process is working at the standard conditions.

Note: it is strongly recommended that the switch from Red to Green (or from Red to Yellow) be made by the Team Leader or Supervisor.

What is Andon in Lean manufacturing and how it connects?

Andon method steps:

  1. Stop the production process when defined process parameters reach the threshold.
  2. Inform the next level of management and start the problem-solving process.
  3. Each management level uses defined time to reach problem resolution, if not possible, the next higher level is involved.
  4. Support function ensures rapid response to production.
  5. The escalation process should be monitored by saving the information using a sheet describing the when (date and shift) process, initial issue, end of the issue, what was the problem, cause, which level of the structure has reached the escalation, etc.

Andon linked to Escalation Process

Supervisors, Managers, and/ or other Leaders and Support functions are made aware of problems within a structured process. So the operator shall obtain immediate support and leader plus support functions have to initiate fast problem-solving.

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Andon Requires Quick Response

Other connections with Lean tools:

Andon is also integrated with Visual Management, Leadership Standardized Work, Problem Solving, Tiered Accountability Meeting, Total Productive Maintenance, and other tools.

What are the main benefits of Andon?

Using the Andon system in Lean manufacturing will generate many positive impacts, both in the short and long term.

In the short-term, it provides:

  • Visibility and transparency in the production process.
  • Increased productivity, efficiency, and decreased wastes.
  • Trigger for the rapid problem-solving actions.

Long term benefits include:

  • Reduced costs and downtime.
  • Enhanced value to the customer because of the better quality products made and delivered.
  • Responsible operators who are accountable for the line running as efficiently and effectively as possible, empowering them to act when problems arise, rather than waiting for management.
  • Long term improvements to the production process.

Like other tools in Lean manufacturing, the Andon itself doesn’t bring added value, because if the analysis and corrective actions aren’t taken immediately when the system is alerted (see the escalation process and problem-solving), then the confidence in the system is lost and you will deviate from the expected results.

Conclusions

Implementing Andon is the right approach to:

  • Empower the operators to have a strong reaction when they face any abnormality.
  • Stop the activity in order to eliminate the risk of creating more defects and to initiate actions to protect the customers.
  • Give the priority and sense of urgency to the support functions and leadership to fix, or correct the error (wrong condition) that generated the activity stoppage.
  • Resolve the highlighted issue according to the 3 DON’T rule: don’t accept/ don’t produce/ don’t deliver nonconforming product or service.

Making the abnormalities visible, giving the right responsibility to the right people, and creating the common sense of urgency inside an organization to solve daily issues, will contribute to the implementation of a robust Lean culture.