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Cambridge has recently decided to test the Andon strategy from the Toyota Production System in conjunction with the lean manufacturing already being practiced at our shop. Andon is a popular form of visual management used in lean, designed to alert operators of problems as they occur in order for corrective action to be taken immediately. Originating from the Jidoka methodology used in Toyota’s production system, the system empowers employees to recognize problems and take initiative to stop the workflow without waiting for their superiors to do so. 

In most cases, an operator would pull the “Andon Cord” - a rope located above the manufacturing line which signals to everyone that a problem has been detected in a specific location on the line. Because of its benefits and empowerment to employees, Cambridge decided to adopt its own form of Andon.

Instead of using a typical Andon Cord, we chose to use the Voxer App.  Voxer is a “walkie talkie-like" app that can be downloaded on smartphones or computers. This app was chosen because, unlike the traditional Andon method, it allows various forms of access to the individuals working the line. However, if expectations are not set clearly on how corrective action should be taken as problems arise, Cambridge will not be able to utilize the full potential of everyone’s ability to help.

Before alerting all operators of an issue, we set up parameters to follow. If an operator can fix the problem in less than 10 minutes, the operator should attempt to solve the problem by his or herself. If the problem will take more than 10 minutes to fix, the operator is responsible to use Voxer to alert other employees for help. 

We also felt it important to set up certain levels of response. The supervisor, team lead and operations engineer are the first to assess the situation when called upon. If they cannot fix the problem, it continues to a higher level of support including engineering, supply chain, etc. If this level cannot fix the problem, it continues to an “all hands on deck” level of support.

The S-Series line is the first place to test Andon because it is an area in the shop that has an actual flow of work happening from one operator to the next. Unlike the other lines, the S-Series line has a takt time of 60 minutes per station when building a heater.

“Andon is about responding to issues immediately, finding the root cause of the issue, and putting a permanent corrective action in place so that the issue never occurs again”, states Cole Drussa, Operations Engineering Manager.

By fully adopting Andon, Cambridge also has the ability to document problems that happen on a daily basis. The data produced from Andon gives the engineering department knowledge of the frequency and severity of problems that interrupt the workflow.

Overall, the goal of Andon at Cambridge is to remove anything that inhibits flow.  Quality problems will be brought to the surface to be identified, the root cause will be established, and a final solution to the problem will ideally be found.  Through Andon, Cambridge plans to document and fix problems permanently.