Andon Systems Made Simple
The term Andon often refers to a system that was developed by Toyota to help improve the manufacturing process by quickly alerting workers and team leaders of production problems. When a problem is spotted, tower lights and audible alarms are triggered by a worker. This is often done by pulling an Andon Cord. But it can be done by pushing an Andon button or other methods. The term Andon literally means a call for help in Japanese.
At the core of the Andon system is the Andon Light. These lights are often referred to as stack lights, tower lights or Andon Lights. They come in many variations and may have up to five colors to indicate different conditions on the production line. Many of the Andon Lights have built-in buzzers or alarms. Some of the alarms play more than one sound and each sound can have a different meaning.
In a typical setup, the Andon Lights are triggered by the pull of the Andon cord which summons workers to help solve the issue at hand. Once the problem is solved the cord is pulled a second time which turns the Andon lights back off and signifies that the problem has been addressed.
In many automotive factories, the Andon system is designed to not only solve problems but to also keep the production line moving. If an operator sees a problem, they can pull the Andon cord and summon help from other operators and team leaders. Help will arrive quickly. The product can still move down the production line as the problem is addressed. The goal is to solve the problem before the product moves so far down the line that there is no choice but to stop the line.
Quickly solving the production problems and preventing line stoppages is important. But the main advantage of a good Andon system is the role that these systems play in Lean Manufacturing. Many Andon systems are designed to collect and display data. Target production, efficiency, defect count, and other measurements can be displayed on screens throughout a factory. This information lets workers know how they are performing against preset goals. It also lets management track problems and search for the root causes of defects and downtime. This fits perfectly into lean manufacturing's goals of continuous process improvement.
Stack-Light.com builds a variety of Andon Lights, tower lights and industrial work lights that are used in production environments and facilities that have adopted lean manufacturing. We would be happy to help with your Andon or Lean manufacturing project. Call to see how we may be of assistance.