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In manufacturing, the term andon (Japanese: アンドン or あんどん or 行灯) refers to a system which notifies managerial, maintenance, and other workers of a quality or processing problem. The alert can be activated manually by a worker using a pullcord or button or may be activated automatically by the production equipment itself. The system may include a means to pause production so the issue can be corrected. Some modern alert systems incorporate audio alarms, text, or other displays; stack lights are among the most commonly used.
An andon system is one of the principal elements of the Jidoka quality control method pioneered by Toyota as part of the Toyota Production System and therefore now part of the lean production approach. It gives workers the ability, and moreover the empowerment, to stop production when a defect is found, and immediately call for assistance. Common reasons for manual activation of the andon are part shortage, defect created or found, tool malfunction, or the existence of a safety problem. Work is stopped until a solution has been found. The alerts may be logged to a database so that they can be studied as part of a continual improvement process.
The system typically indicates where the alert was generated, and may also provide a description of the trouble. Modern andon systems can include text, graphics, or audio elements. Audio alerts may be done with coded tones, music with different tunes corresponding to the various alerts, or prerecorded verbal messages.
The concept/process of giving a non-management (production line) worker the authority to stop the production line because of a suspected quality issue is often attributed to W. Edwards Deming and others who developed what became Kaizen after World War II. Many attribute Japan's rise from wartime ashes to the world's second largest economy (the Japanese economic miracle) to their post-war industrial innovations:
- Better design of products to improve service
- Higher level of uniform product quality
- Improvement of product testing in the workplace and in research centers
- Greater sales through side [global] markets
- Traditional lighting equipment of Japan#Andon
- Stack light (commonly used in andon and lean manufacturing initiatives)
- Liker, Jeffrey (2004) "The Toyota Way" New York:McGraw Hill ISBN 0-07-139231-9
- Robert J. Everett & Amrik S. Sohal, (1991) "Individual Involvement and Intervention in Quality Improvement Programmes: Using the Andon System", International Journal of Quality & Reliability Management, Vol. 8 Iss: 2. Accessed 5 December 2014