Jidoka or Autonomation

Jidoka or Autonomation

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Jidoka or Autonomation

What is Jidoka

Though jidoka has come to be known as automation with a human-touch, a better way of describing it is people-centred improvements which are more focussed on how human beings and machines interact with the aim of producing quality.

The notion that machines can entirely replace human beings is beginning to lose favour as companies realize that people are the most important factor of production because they have intelligence that is had to replace.

Jidoka has had many interpretations by various practitioners over the years. Some companies have stuck to the meaning of giving machines human-like intelligence. Jidoka can also be defined as the act of stopping processes when something goes wrong.

In the autonomation sense, Jidoka involves having special components within machines that stop the process when either of the following conditions are encountered:

  • The target production goals are met
  • Poor quality product
  • Machine malfunction

The ultimate goal of this kind of autonomation is to prevent workers from constantly manning machines and give them the flexibility to operate more than one equipment. There is a close resemblance of this system with poka-yoke as espoused by its creator Mr Shigeo Shingo.

In this type of autonomation, an entire process is stopped when a problem occurs. It instils in the workforce a mental mind-set of stopping to correct problems and is a key tenet of the continuous improvement mentality.

It has been hard to transfer this thinking from the East to the West due to a number of reasons. These include:

  • Poor interpretation into normal language of terms that are primarily Japanese in origin
  • The original conditions that made the concept attractive are slowly fading away as machines become more efficient in performing their function
  • Lack of courage to stop lines when errors occur
  • Confusing autonomation and automation – two very different concepts

Jidoka foundations

Jidoka is supported by four key components of quality assurance:

  • Genchi genbutsu: This Japanese term means 'going to the source' of a problem to see it first hand. It is a necessary activity for acquiring an intimate understanding of the problem before setting out to solve it.
  • Andon - These are signalling devices within the Jidoka system that give an alert when an abnormality occurs. Line operators have the authority to stop the line when a problem occurs, while management have the responsibility to ensure that the problem has been solved before restarting.
  • Standardization - Standards are the basis of continuous improvement, quality and consistency. The use of standards ensures smooth production flow.
  • Mistake-proofing- Poka yoke devices within the production process are aimed at preventing errors from occurring in the first place.

These four concepts are the foundation for successful implementation without which the program will fail. Autonomation is not an aim in itself, but is part of a comprehensive lean thinking philosophy that incorporates a variety of tools to achieve a truly lean enterprise.

Jidoka examples

The following are a few examples of devices which are used for autonomation that can be found in manufacturing as well as daily situations. You will not how quality of the process or product is assured through detection and stopping to allow for corrective actions to be made.

  • Tension detector on a coil feeder stops feed when there is improper tension on the machine
  • Sensor to check for a part that is out of position stops the machine when the part is misaligned. The operator then has to re-align the part before the production process can continue. This kind of device helps in improving the quality of products by reducing the defect rate
  • Proximity switch lowers a pile stacker as the pile increases or stops the machine when it is too high
  • A sheet detector raises the print cylinder when there is a missing sheet in a printing press machine
  • Presence sensing devices are safeguards for automatic feed machines. They have a sensing field that when broken stops the machine. These light curtains are more effective than other devices as they are not dependent on the operators’ acceptance of the device
  • Surge protectors on the national grid protect power consumers from fault currents. Surges by lightning or contact between power lines can result in short circuits which cause excess power being drawn from the grid in a rapid manner. The surge protector detects excess current and absorbs it so as to prevent that excess from moving down the grid
  • Apple uses a QR code on its products to track them during the production and post-production period. The tracking enables it to know which parts are working and which ones are not. This helps the company improve the performance of the devices over time
  • Product recall procedures that triggers immediate stoppage of the production line. Though the system aims at capturing errors before they affect the final product quality, some errors may eventually slip through the tight controls. The recall procedure is a final stop gap measure to capture the error before it reaches the customer

    In the post I used bolded and underlined characters for the sentence : "lack of courage to stop lines when errors occur" wrote like a limit during the transfer of this important concept from the East to the West.

    What do you think about this limit ?

    Also, in the post there are indicated some examples of device wich are used for autonomation and that can be found  in manufacturing as well as daily situation, can you share with all the solutions used in your experiences? 

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