The Manufacturing Traffic Light

Green means go and red means stop are basic tenets of driving. These rules of the road can be applied and enhanced in a visual factory environment. Just as we inherently know what to do at a stoplight, we also understand that factory equipment with a red light is stopped (or has a problem) and green is currently running.

Human workers are a vital part of manufacturing operations. Building a visual factory around expected human visual queues can unleash operational excellence by increasing productivity, decreasing labor turnover, and improving quality.

Banner TL50 Light in warehouse

Andon Empowers Productivity

Productivity is key in a manufacturing environment. With human factors involved, operator safety, quality, and response speed are major contributors to improving productivity. Building a visual factory around operators provides a platform for maximizing throughput and improving worker experience.

Operators working under proper lighting conditions and under proper safety protocols with equipment are free and clear to focus on their tasks. Quality control processes, including manual and vision-based inspection, rely on lighting and guidance to minimize scrap and rework. Finally, when equipment needs attention, operators and equipment need clear, bidirectional communication. Responding to issues and returning to full output is simplified when status and needed action are clearly conveyed and understood.

The Evolution of Andon Technology

Similar to how we use traffic lights to visually indicate traffic flows, colored indicators — often tower- or stacklights — play a role in classic visual factory applications to provide a basic view of equipment status. Interaction between equipment and humans has evolved. Indication can now be integrated into equipment to improve ergonomics and response time. Feedback devices allow operators to communicate back to the equipment. Feedback devices with indications do both!

Equipment interfaces can be as simple as using a machine signal to trigger an indicator. New controller devices and device communication protocols enable dynamic capabilities and simplified installation. Tulip’s platform support for Andon stack lights and indicators — including Banner’s TL50 Andon Tower Light — provides simplified integration of visual indicators for operators, and also allows you to use Andon data for insights about your operations. Using Tulip’s Andon Event Module in your apps enables you to streamline logging Andon events, like machine downtime and operator feedback, making root-cause analysis easier.

Automotive production line

How Can You Use Andon in Your Operations?

Nearly anywhere where visual cues are necessary, Andon can be integrated to streamline operations. Andon provides a system for quick alerts and visual feedback. There are a variety of processes within your operations where Andon can be put into practice.

Pick-to-Light: Guiding the operator to the correct part in assembly and fulfillment processes is critical to pacing throughput and maintaining quality. The controller communicates with multiple devices so each is linked to a part. Workflow instructions plus indication on the pick device show the worker the correct part; built-in sensors can confirm the pick and trigger the work sequence to continue.

Takt time: In single-piece flow and similar linear assembly operations, keeping a consistent flow ensures no workstations are starved and drives consistent achievement of output targets. Smart touch buttons and linear indicator devices in the visual factory can provide feedback through multicolor indication or alphanumeric characters about the time remaining to complete the process. One manufacturer improved their flow rate at a station by three minutes with the addition of a device. Time can be controlled dynamically through the controller or configured in the device depending on the control architecture.

Production and scrap count: Many operations require multiple steps to be completed synchronously. One example is installing bolts on a fixture. To provide a visual reminder of progress on each unique part, devices like tower lights or linear indicators can increment or decrement through different indication stages as steps are completed. This way both operators and supervisors can monitor progress. This indication also serves as a reminder about process status when operators return from breaks or other interruptions. Conversely, the same technology can be used to track scrap, providing a visual notification when scrap count increases and action needs to be taken.

Status/Andon: When extra support is needed, operators need a fast request mechanism, and responders need a clear definition of what’s needed. Andon systems give operators a manual means to trigger an indicator to request support with quality, parts, or maintenance.

Visual Factory

Integrating Andon into your operations provides unlimited potential for increasing productivity, decreasing labor turnover, and improving quality. It provides a safer environment for your operators to manage machine maintenance and improve throughput. Through the integration of Andon into your operations, you can build a visual factory that empowers operators to visualize, record, and respond to production-critical events in real-time.

Our Partnership with Banner Engineering

Banner Engineering is one of our Technology Partners. For more information about using Banner’s stack lights with Tulip to support your Andon applications, check out our partner page.

Day In The Life Demo Image