In lean manufacturing, andon refers to state presentation station. It is a visual presentation of ongoing operations and indicates where any action is needed. It is considered as the most effective intercommunication tool as it allows the process to run sleekly without any impediment or jam.

Andon is ancient Japanese terminology for accustomed paper lanterns. It is a preeminent tool of Toyota production system and now an integral part of lean manufacturing. For instance, an operation is ungoing and there is an Andon system installed on production floor for highlighting the production status to employees, and the andon system indicates the blockage in some pipeline. It is therefore easier for staff to check respective pipeline.

Purpose of Andon in Manufacturing

  • It alerts the personnel immediately on arousal of a problem or obstruction, thus allows prompt fixing of the problem.
  • It saves extra time and effort of floor personnel used for monitoring the production process; instead it allows them to focus more on corrective actions.
  • It allows effective monitoring of equipment and personnel.
  • It let the personnel to effectively carryout bottleneck analysis.
  • It highlights the location as well as nature of the problem.
  • It stimulates the flow of information thus minimize the efforts required for conveying information.

How Andon Works

Like any other system an andon in manufacturing also have inputs and outputs. It improves and speeds up the flow of information associated with problems in production process.

Input for Andon

Information can be implanted into the andon system either manually or automatically. Manually it is actuated by either pulling an andon cord or by use of buttons or switches. An andon cord is a cord that is drooping from the ceiling and in case of any problem the operator just pulls the cord that sends information that a problem is identified and stops the operation. Whereas, when using andon button or switch the operator has to press the button in order to highlight the problem and to stop the operation.

However, in an automatic andon system, it automatically freezes production and staff is assembled to analyze and perform root cause analysis if needed to resolve the problem. In automatic system information is fed into the system and it senses the process. For instance, if the time is up and production is still incomplete it is considered as negligence of an operator and system send signals automatically.

 Output of Andon

Data received by the andon system from sensors and input systems is then displayed either in form of lights or Andon boards. Andon lights are the simplest form of Andon system display.

  • Green light indicates operation is regular and error free.
  • Yellow indicates problem is identified.
  • Red light indicates production is halted.
  • Orange light indicates a warning for a problem.

Most effective of the andon systems are andon boards. They sum up the information about production on a single board. Different lights and LEDs are installed on this board or one can also program software for its display on a large monitor. It highlights the production status as well as current target and any defect. Various modifications can be done in andon boards like a sound signal or an instant message on mobile phone about identification of a problem. A relatively smaller monitor can be linked with the main board and can be installed in the operator’s office.

Benefits of Andon in Manufacturing

  • An Andon system is very beneficial in the lean manufacturing process where the data is sent directly into control rooms and it has made it so easy for the operators to control simultaneous operations in a relatively larger unit.
  • The product status is clearly visible to the personnel at each level that are involved in a particular operation such as plant manager, supervisor, maintenance staff and operating personnel.
  • Andon in manufacturing enhance the transparency of the production process and embolden an instant reaction to quality or safety issues.
  • By immediate highlighting of an error or obstruction, it enhances productivity.
  • It enhance the flow of information on plant floor thus saves time, cost and energy as well.
  • Andon boards also serve as an early warning device that means the problem is displayed on board before the alarm is triggered so that it can be solved immediately.
  • It increases the responsibility of operators and ultimately improves their accountability and entrust them to take corrective actions.