The term “Jidoka” refers to the culture of stopping the process to get quality right. Alex Warren, former Executive Vice President of Toyota Motor Corporation in Kentucky, defined Jidoka and how it relates to the increased power given to employees:
In the case of machines, we build devices into them that detect abnormalities and automatically stop the machine upon such an occurrence. In the case of humans, we give them the power to push buttons or pull cords—called “andon cords”—which can bring our entire assembly line to a halt. Every team member has the responsibility to stop the line every time they see something that is out of standard. That’s how we put the responsibility for quality in the hands of our team members. They feel the responsibility—they feel the power. They know they count.
While it seems obvious that quality issues should be taken up and addressed immediately, in many companies the last thing the management would allow in a traditional manufacturing process would be to stop the line. Defective parts, if detected, are labelled as bad and set aside for repair at another time and by another department. The mantra in these traditional companies is: “Produce large quantities at any cost and then repair the problems”. As Gary Convis, President of the Toyota factory in Georgetown explains:
When I was at Ford, if you didn’t run production 100% of the shift, you had to explain it to Division. You never shut the line off. We don’t run 100% of the scheduled time out here. Toyota’s strength, I think, is that the upper management realizes what the andon system is all about …. They’ve lived through it and they support it. So in all the years I’ve been with Toyota, I’ve never really had any criticism over lost production and putting a priority on safety and quality over hitting production targets. All they want to know is:
How are you problem solving to get to the root cause? And can we help you?
At Toyota, team members can get into trouble for two things: one is you don’t come to work, and two is you don’t pull the cord if you’ve got a problem. The sense of accountability to ensure quality at each station is really critical. Click To Tweet
So we have a paradox. Toyota management says it’s OK to manufacture less than 100% of the time, even if the line is capable of operating at full capacity, and yet Toyota is regularly ranked among the most productive plants in the automotive industry.
Why? Because Toyota learned long ago that solving quality problems at their source saves time and money downstream. By continually bringing problems to the surface and developing people’s abilities to solve them immediately as son as they come up, waste is eliminated, productivity increased and competitors who run their assembly lines flat out will be left behind to swallow your dust..