A common goal of all companies is to increase profitability and productivity. In order to achieve this goal, you must try to minimize the level of errors as much as possible. Errors can occur in all areas of the organization.
There are various techniques that can be applied to minimize errors. One of the best-known and most widely used is the Poka-Yoke technique. This method has proven to be highly effective in eliminating defects and errors. In this article, you will see how it works and how to apply it to your company.
- This technique seeks to prevent and eliminate errors. Its goal is to eliminate any potential human error.
- Great benefits can be obtained by applying this method. Among the main advantages, we can see the time saving and the easy adaptation of the technique.
- This technique can be applied in all areas of the company. Moreover, it can be used for both service and product areas.
What you need to know about the Poka-Yoke technique
Poka-Yoke is a technique that originated in Japan that seeks to minimize the level of errors as much as possible. Here is everything you need to know about its origin, its advantages, and how to apply it.
What is the Poka-Yoke technique and what is its origin?
The Poka-Yoke technique is based on a simple idea: preventing errors. This method was developed by a Japanese engineer named Shigeo Shingo in 1961 when he was working for Toyota Motors (3). His goal in developing this technique was to prevent and eliminate all errors in the production process. According to Shingo, even a minimum level of defects is not acceptable (4).
This method seeks to eliminate any potential human error. Its objective is to free the worker’s mind from repetitive tasks and thus make room for more creative operations (3). Using this technique can prevent an error from being made or highlight the error once it has been made so that it is not overlooked (1).
Advantages of the Poka-Yoke technique
The Poka-Yoke technique is still in use today. Its numerous benefits have made it an industry standard. If you decide to apply this method of error prevention, you can obtain great advantages for your company. Here are its main benefits (3).
|Error prevention||Measures are taken to avoid making common mistakes.|
|Early detection of errors||In case errors are made, they can be easily detected at an early stage of the production process.|
|Low cost||Minimal investment is required.|
|Easy to apply||It does not have many requirements to be applied.|
|High-quality products||By reducing the number of errors, the final product is of higher quality.|
|Generates continuous improvement||The production process is constantly improved.|
|Adaptable||There is no exact Poka-Yoke formula. This technique can be adapted to any process.|
Examples of the Poka-Yoke technique
A Poka-Yoke device is any mechanism that helps prevent errors before they happen (3). This method, in addition to being used in production, can be applied to the final product to improve the user experience. This ensures that the consumer uses the product in the right way. In the following list, you will see some examples of the Poka-Yoke technique that you can find in everyday life.
- Most new vehicles have signs indicating that the driver is not wearing a seat belt or that a door is left open (7).
- Clothes dryers and washing machines stop automatically when the door is opened (6).
- Certain irons turn off automatically after a certain time to prevent overheating.
- Some sinks are motion-sensor activated and shut off after a certain time.
- Cables and USB sticks can only be plugged in in the correct way. Therefore, they cannot be inserted in any other way.
What types of Poka-Yoke are there?
The Poka-Yoke technique can be implemented at any stage of the production process. Moreover, this working method can also be implemented in the service area (5). There are two methods of implementing the Poka-Yoke technique (2):
Prediction and warning method
This method is based on the basic principle of the Poka-Yoke technique. The objective is to prevent errors before they happen. These are mechanisms that help to carry out immediate actions to avoid making mistakes. Certain signals or alarms are determined to warn us when we are about to make a mistake.
Method of detection and control
Sometimes it is impossible to prevent errors. In such cases, detection and control mechanisms are used to quickly identify defects and errors. This makes it easier to solve problems at the early stages of the production process and not to carry the defect through to the final product. After eliminating the error, mechanisms must be established to prevent recurrence (3).
What types of errors can be prevented with the Poka-Yoke technique?
The main objective of the Poka-Yoke technique is to prevent human errors. Within the production process, or even in the service area, there are different types of human errors. Here are the most common ones (1) and how Poka-Yoke can be implemented in each case (4).
|Due to forgetfulness||Workers may forget to perform certain tasks.||Create checklists of tasks.|
|Identification||Employees may misunderstand tasks. In an assembly process, they may misidentify a part.||Employee training.|
|Due to inexperience or lack of knowledge||Mistakes can be made due to a lack of knowledge or experience.||Establish work procedures. Standardize tasks.|
|Due to slowness||Mistakes can be made by taking too long to perform tasks.||Training in specific tasks.|
|Volunteers||Workers may decide to ignore certain rules thinking that there will be no consequences||Basic rules.|
|By inadvertence||Employees may get distracted and make mistakes without realizing it.||Standardization of processes.|
|Intentional||People may decide to make mistakes intentionally.||Clear rules and consequences.|
|Lack of standards||When it is not clear what to do or how to do it, mistakes can be made.||Standardization of tasks. Clear instructions.|
When should the Poka-Yoke technique be used?
We can affirm that the Poka-Yoke technique can be used at any time. Its basic principle of error prevention has transcended the industrial environment. Today the Poka-Yoke method is understood as more than a technique, it is considered a philosophy (4). Poka-Yoke encourages us to resort to ingenuity and creativity.
We can apply the Poka-Yoke technique when creating products, devising processes, offering services, etc. For example, in the production process, signals and alarms can be configured to warn of possible defects. Also, guides or stops can be created that only allow parts to be placed correctly (11). In the service area, for example, task checklists can be created. This makes it easy to check that everything has been done correctly.
How should the Poka-Yoke technique be used?
The Poka-Yoke technique can be applied in different ways and in different areas of the company. The specific Poka-Yoke mechanisms you will use will depend on the needs of your company. Below is an example of a step-by-step Poka-Yoke process for you to use as a guide:
- Identify the problem: choose the area or process that requires a Poka-Yoke mechanism. It may be an area where there is usually a high frequency of errors or where each error represents a high cost.
- Analyze the cause: perform an extensive analysis to get to the real cause of the errors or defects.
- Define the strategy: decide whether to use a prevention mechanism or a detection mechanism.
- Design a mechanism: devise and create a Poka-Yoke mechanism that is appropriate for the type of problem.
- Test the method: conduct tests to see if the Poka-Yoke mechanism works properly.
- Train: conduct the necessary training so that everyone knows how to use it.
- Measure performance: after a period of time measure the effectiveness of the applied mechanism.
We all know that we should have as few errors as possible in our processes and operations. However, sometimes it is not easy to know how to achieve this goal. In the Poka-Yoke technique, you will find an effective, low-cost, and easy-to-apply method.
This technique has become a standard in the production industry. However, the Poka-Yoke method can be used in different industries, such as services, and in different areas of a company. We hope this article has served as a guide to knowing how and when to apply this technique.
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