Visual management in a lean context – Andon
One of the best-known examples of visual management used in the context of lean production is the Andon board. Andon is the Japanese word for “lantern”. Originally, it was only used to refer to traditional paper lanterns, but over time people have begun using it to describe small lights on machines as well. And that’s precisely the setting where the Andon cord comes into play – although, in actual fact, it could just as easily take the form of a button. If employees notice a problem, they can pull the cord to indicate that something’s wrong. By looking at the Andon board, managers such as team leaders can see not only that a problem has arisen but also who is requesting support. If this issue cannot be solved within the tact time, then the team leader will usually stop the process so the problem can be more thoroughly investigated.
However, this approach does more than just interrupt the process – the signal sent to the Andon board hanging in the area in question makes it possible for all staff members to immediately recognize where exactly the problem has occurred. What’s more, there are also Andon lights attached to machines that function in a similar way to traffic lights, with each color representing a different status (green = normal state, yellow = maintenance is planned, red = problem has occurred / machine has been stopped). The Andon board provides information not only about the status of a particular machine, but also the status of the manufacturing process itself. The current and desired state of affairs are compared with one another and visualized, meaning the Andon board functions as both a pacemaker for production and a means of motivating staff.
Station 3 is experiencing a problem and requires support, but can continue with production. Station 12b is experiencing a problem that requires urgent support, and is therefore unable to continue with production. The team leader should attend to Station 12b first, then immediately go to Station 3 to help the staff resolve their respective issues.