Andon in manufacturing refers to a status-display station. The origin of term Andon is from a Japanese word for traditional paper lantern. An Andon is one of the most common forms of visual management that is in use in Lean. It is a highly effective tool as it enables the operation to run smoothly without any bottlenecks.

An Andon system is one of the principal elements of the Jidoka quality control method pioneered by Toyota as part of the Toyota Production system and now part of Lean approach. Jidoka means ‘empowering the employees’, and here Andon directs operator’s attention to the assembly line to identify the status of the process and take corresponding actions with utmost significance. Under this process, operator/ employee is empowered and informed to pull an andon cord in the assembly line when abnormalities occur.

Andons are the lighted signal like the traffic lights with three colors on top of each level of production assembly line. Whenever a worker detected any problem in the production line, or found himself unable to keep pace with the line, he could stop the operation by pulling a cord called ‘andon’ cord, which would set off an alarm system and illuminate the color coded andon electric light board.

If the problems detected were not rectified within a specified time period then the entire production line would stop, either manually or automatically. And if there is no problem the andon illuminates a green signal signifying that process can continue with the operations.

Andon cords and their significance

Andon cords and their significance table

These three colors signal are broadly used in many manufacturing industries. However, some industries prefer to develop other color signals with specific meaning, such as white- end of production run and blue – defective unit. Warning light on your car’s dashboard that indicates when the gas tank is getting close to empty, is a simple day-to- day example of an andon that we come across.

Types of Andons:

Manual: Andons are activated manually by the operator/employee in the assembly line by either,

  • Pressing static button
  • Pulling a cord

Automatic: Andons are activates automatically on the conveyor when criteria fixed in the assembly line are not met or lacking.

Andons intitally were light signals in the manufacturing process to enable operator to signal the status based on the color. Today, visual displays are more sophisticated; however, their purpose remains the same, communicating efficiency and real-time status of the plant floor.

Benefits of Lean Manufacturing Andon

  • Improve transparency: Encourage immediate reaction to quality, down time, and safety problems.
  • Increase productivity: Bring immediate attention to problems as they occur in the manufacturing process.
  • Strengthen flexibility: Improve accountability of operators by increasing their responsibility for good production and empowering them to take action when problems occur.
  • Reduce downtime: Improve the ability of supervisors/operators to quickly identify and resolve manufacturing issues.
  • Save costs and time: Provide a simple and consistent mechanism for communicating information on the plant floor.