Poka-yoke (ポカヨケ) [poka yoke] is a Japanese term that means "mistake-proofing". A poka-yoke is any mechanism in a lean manufacturing process that helps an equipment operator avoid (yokeru) mistakes (poka). Its purpose is to eliminate product defects by preventing, correcting, or drawing attention to human errors as they occur. The concept was formalised, and the term adopted, by Shigeo Shingo as part of the Toyota Production System. It was originally described as baka-yoke, but as this means "fool-proofing" (or "idiot-proofing") the name was changed to the milder poka-yoke.
More broadly, the term can refer to any behavior-shaping constraint designed into a process to prevent incorrect operation by the user. Similarly, a constraint that is part of the product (or service) design is considered Design for Manufacturability or Design for X. A modern Poka-Yoke application is when a driver must press on the brake pedal (a process step, therefore a poka-yoke)) prior to starting an automobile. The interlock serves to prevent unintended movement of the car. An additional poka-yoke would be the switch in the car's gear shift that requires the car to be in Park or Neutral before the car can be started. These serve as behavior-shaping constraints as the sequence of "car in park (or neutral)" and/or "Foot on brake" must be performed before the car is allowed to start. Over time, the driver's behavior is conformed with the requirements by repetition and habit.
The term poka-yoke was applied by Shigeo Shingo in the 1960s to industrial processes designed to prevent human errors. Shingo redesigned a process in which factory workers, while assembling a small switch, would often forget to insert the required spring under one of the switch buttons. In the redesigned process, the worker would perform the task in two steps, first preparing the two required springs and placing them in a placeholder, then inserting the springs from the placeholder into the switch. When a spring remained in the placeholder, the workers knew that they had forgotten to insert it and could correct the mistake effortlessly. 
Shingo distinguished between the concepts of inevitable human mistakes and defects in the production. Defects occur when the mistakes are allowed to reach the customer. The aim of poka-yoke is to design the process so that mistakes can be detected and corrected immediately, eliminating defects at the source.
Implementation in manufacturing 
Poka-yoke can be implemented at any step of a manufacturing process where something can go wrong or an error can be made. For example, a jig that holds pieces for processing might be modified to only allow pieces to be held in the correct orientation, or a digital counter might track the number of spot welds on each piece to ensure that the worker executes the correct number of welds.
- The contact method identifies product defects by testing the product's shape, size, color, or other physical attributes.
- The fixed-value (or constant number) method alerts the operator if a certain number of movements are not made.
- The motion-step (or sequence) method determines whether the prescribed steps of the process have been followed.
Either the operator is alerted when a mistake is about to be made, or the poka-yoke device actually prevents the mistake from being made. In Shingo's lexicon, the former implementation would be called a warning poka-yoke, while the latter would be referred to as a control poka-yoke.
Shingo argued that errors are inevitable in any manufacturing process, but that if appropriate poka-yokes are implemented, then mistakes can be caught quickly and prevented from resulting in defects. By eliminating defects at the source, the cost of mistakes within a company is reduced.
Poka yoke system is generally known as PKS.
Implementation in service industries 
Poka-yoke can also be implemented in service industries. Call centers have long had a challenge with compliance. Poor training, fatigue, forgetfulness, and the limits on human consistency all can lead to agents skipping key steps in the process. Disclosures are a good example. When a consumer makes a purchase of some kind, the call center agent is often required to provide the customer with key information. What the customer purchases dictates the disclosures that are required. It can be hard to train the agents in all the required combination of disclosures or the agents can sometimes forget to read the disclosures. Using agent-assisted automation, the agents can provide the customers with all the required disclosures using pre-recorded audio files. By integrating the agent-assisted automation with the customer relationship management software, you can ensure that the agent cannot process/complete the order until the required disclosures are played.
- Robinson, Harry (1997). "Using Poka-Yoke Techniques for Early Defect Detection". Retrieved May 4, 2009.
- Shingo, Shigeo; Dillon, Andrew (1989). 22 A study of the Toyota production system from an industrial engineering viewpoint. Portland, OR: Productivity Press. ISBN 0-915299-17-8. OCLC 19740349.
- John R. Grout, Brian T. Downs. "A Brief Tutorial on Mistake-proofing, Poka-Yoke, and ZQC". MistakeProofing.com. Retrieved May 4, 2009.
- H Robinson. "Using Poka-Yoke techniques for early defect detection". Retrieved June 18, 2012.
- "The Sayings of Shigeo Shingo: Key Strategies for Plant Improvement". QualityCoach.Net. Retrieved August 20, 2012.
- "Poka Yoke or Mistake Proofing :: Overview". The Quality Portal. Retrieved May 5, 2009.
- Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (1988). Poka-yoke: improving product quality by preventing defects. Productivity Press. p. 111. ISBN 978-0-915299-31-7.
- "Pokayoke". The Manufacturing Advisory Service in the South West (MAS-SW). Retrieved May 2, 2009.
- Adsit, D. 2009 Mass Customization and the Transformation of the Call Center Industry http://www.kombea.com/RecentPress.htm
Further reading 
- Shingo, Shigeo (1986). Zero quality control: source inspection and the poka-yoke system. Portland, Oregon: Productivity Press. ISBN 0-915299-07-0. OCLC 13457086. Retrieved 30 April 2009.
- Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (1988). Poka-yoke: improving product quality by preventing defects. Portland, Oregon: Productivity Press. ISBN 0-915299-31-3. OCLC 300302752.
- Hinckley, C. M.; P. Barkan (1995). "The role of variation, mistakes, and complexity in producing nonconformities". Journal of Quality Technology 27 (3): 242–249.