Manufacturers have adopted a host of operation models to guide their production processes, improving their ability to increase productivity and drive growth across their business. One of the most common methodologies for managing production is lean manufacturing.

Here, manufacturing businesses place considerable importance on maximizing production and item quality and – at the same time – minimizing waste. Andon systems are one of the core tools commonly found in lean manufacturing facilities.

What is Andon in manufacturing?

Andon is a tool used by manufacturers to alert supervisors to quality and process issues, ensuring that the production line keeps running without churning out defective items.

The system, often made up of lights or digital displays, allows supervisors to quickly identify problems at a given station on the production line, prompting timely intervention before the issue can affect the entire production run.

Adopted from the Toyota Production System, Andon is translated from the Japanese as light/lamp – a notification from the floor to the supervisor.

Read on to get a clearer picture of the Andon system, its application, and its benefits in a manufacturing setting.

How Andon is used on a lean manufacturing floor

As earlier mentioned, lean manufacturing is all about efficiency in the manufacturing environment. The goal is to minimize waste as much as possible. Andon achieves this by quickly bringing to light problems when they occur on the production line.

In the traditional method, the Andon system used an actual cord that operators pulled when an issue arose during the production process. Pulling the line triggered a light that caught the supervisor’s attention, drawing them to the scene of the problem.

The production line was halted as the problem was solved. Doing so prevented the problem from proceeding down the line, reducing the scale of repairs and associated costs.

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Andon lights and board - digitizing your Andon system

Another system for implementing andon in a manufacturing facility is via andon lights or andon boards.

Andon Lights

In andon light-based system, pulling the cord results in a light coming on. The light color designates the type of problem experienced on the production line.

Andon Boards

Andon boards hung in a prominent position on the factory floor, sometimes used in conjunction with individual andon lights, display a corresponding color, informing the rest of the operators of the problem on the line.

A green light shows that the production process is moving along smoothly. On the other hand, the color orange shows that an operator has encountered a problem or defect and summoned a supervisor to look into it.

Red signals that production has come to a halt as the issue or defect is fixed, ensuring it doesn’t spread to the rest of the line.

Using a digital Andon system in a modern production setting

With the advent of Industry 4.0, many lean manufacturing businesses have invested in a digital form of the Andon system.

To take advantage of the widespread interconnectivity between machines on the floor and remote systems, a digitized Andon system/software automatically detects problems during the production process. It sends notifications directly to operators, supervisors, and relevant repair or maintenance teams.

The modern Andon board also provides an accurate, real-time depiction of the prevailing production status. Operators and supervisors can see production targets, numbers, and downtime, letting everyone know what’s happening on the factory floor at any given time.

Benefits of Andon in lean manufacturing

The Andon system brings a host of benefits to a lean manufacturing environment. These include:

Improved production efficiency: Pulling the cord or automatically notifying supervisors allows problems to be caught early. This prevents them from sliding down the line to create issues on a larger scale.

And when the problem is dealt with at the source, it ensures that the production process isn’t interrupted by lengthy downtimes to solve widespread issues.

Decreased production costs: Similarly, timely detection and solving problems on the production line saves the manufacturer from shelling out large sums for repairs.

After all, the Andon system enables operators and supervisors to deal with an issue before it affects the rest of the line. Consequently, orders can still be fulfilled without reworking the entire line, reducing manufacturing costs.

Better customer satisfaction: This system effectively singles out defects during production. Supervisors can then quickly find solutions to fulfill a customer’s order faultlessly.

As such, customers get high-quality products that they’re satisfied with, prompting them to patronize the manufacturing business more.

Continuous production process improvement: The Andon system emphasizes detecting a problem and finding its root cause. When relevant personnel identify and solve the issue, they recommend solutions to prevent reoccurrence.

When these solutions are implemented, the manufacturing process continuously improves to ensure that the given issue doesn’t interrupt production. In other words, as operators discover and solve problems, the production process improves over time.

Improved teamwork and employee empowerment: For this system to work, operators need to be confident and open enough to pull the cord to bring attention to problems on the line. Supervisors need to work hand-in-hand with operators and maintenance/repair personnel to fix issues.

Gradually, the teamwork and communication among the different groups grow to solve problems more efficiently – improved teamwork results in optimized production efficiency and costs and, ultimately, better customer satisfaction.

If you're interested in learning how Tulip can help you respond to production issues more quickly, contact one of our team members today!

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