Using Jidoka to Solve Problems
It’s important to react if you spot a defect or problem with something you’re working on. If you’re following Lean principles, you can use jidoka — a four-step process for problem solving.
Let’s start with the first step: detecting an error. This could occur through observation, delays, or changes in pattern. Many problems — such as broken parts or distorted graphics — may be found through visual inspection. Sometimes an odd smell or sound may also alert people that there’s a problem.
Pay attention to delays because they’re often an early indication that something isn’t right upstream. If ignored, they can cascade downstream and create significant backlogs. Also watch out for any disruption of a standardized process or pattern, which may indicate a problem.
If possible, get some machine assistance by installing a device to identify any abnormalities in a product or process. This type of device is an example of a poka yoke. An error message that pops up is an example of a computer software poka yoke designed to detect problems and alert users. In manufacturing, if a piece is misaligned or misshaped, a poka yoke could alert the operator with flashing lights or a beeping sound.
With jidoka, the second step is stopping the process. If you’re working in a manufacturing setting, this could involve stopping the production line. In the service industry, for example, this could mean halting the process of completing a form to avoid including incorrect information.
Next, limit wasted time and resources by fixing the immediate problem — do what it takes to get things up and running again. This could entail finding a way to bypass malfunctioning equipment or replacing a defective component. In the service industry, a quick fix might be getting missing information from a different source.
Remember, these are just temporary countermeasures. They don’t address why the errors occur in the first place. That’s why the fourth step is investigating the root cause of a problem before installing a poka yoke — or another strategy — to prevent the problem from recurring.
Let’s say you identify root causes, such as a faulty piece of equipment or a worker who isn’t using a specified process. You handle these issues using corrective actions — these fix the problem and prevent the problem from recurring. This can include replacing a faulty piece of equipment and improving worker training.
Depending on the root cause, you might benefit from the corrective action of installing a poka yoke. An example of this is data entry software, which prevents users from advancing to a new screen until required fields have been completed.
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