Error Proofing via Poka-Yoke Systems

What is Poka Yoke?

Life would be so much easier if we all had a blueprint to operate from. Fortunately, in the industrial realm, the blueprint for some aspects of our industrial operations is known as Poka yoke. In everyday life, we encounter poka yoke when we enter facilities and we have signs that indicate to us where to go, what to do, and where to sit. The whole point is that it will ensure uniformity of actions once individuals are in a system. An airport is the ideal process system that is filled with Poka Yoke. Once you are in an airport building, with your ability to read you can navigate the sphere.

Likewise for an industrial environment. In industry, the intention is to keep optimizing of course. Once it’s done however, the aim is to maintain that standard of work that is generated by the newly optimized system. At best, we really want to keep things smooth and stable.

As a Japanese word that means “mistake proofing”, the intention of Poka Yoke systems is to ensure that systems are safe. While we do anticipate that everyone walks onto the plant in a state of calm and order, there are some instances where the level of consciousness of an individual may not be at peak. This is particularly so at the end of a shift. For such persons, what will be critical is for the system to ensure that at all times, the critical phases of an exercise are being adhered to. The industrial realm has done an excellent job of ensuring that errors are minimized. For the uninitiated, let’s delve into a list of ways in which the implementation of Poka Yoke is helping us today.

  1. In current mobile equipment, new vehicles have cameras and detectors that are able to identify the location of the vehicle in comparison to the distance and speed of other moving vehicles, and even walls. This will minimize the ability for the unit to collide into these structures. Parking in spaces that are restricted is now easier thanks to the camera.
  2. In industrial mobile equipment such as trucks, automatic braking systems are now enabling the drivers to better maneuver the roadways. Some trucks being developed by companies like Tesla, have the ability to self drive. Once on open roads like freeways, the auto drive feature is one that will be a benefit to reducing the fatigue of drivers. If there are any obstacles, the truck will be able to automatically stop itself.
  3. On the plant site itself, there are poka yoke systems that are able to monitor the traffic as it navigates through the industrial plant. The paintings on the roadway that tell the motorists when to stop, is one such example of a poka yoke.
  4. Electronic sockets – once within an industrial building there are systems in place that ensure that there is one correct way to do things. Electronic sockets and the plugs that are incorporated into electrical systems are one such system. Essentially, there’s only one way to plug into the socket, based on the design. For computer systems, the transition to USB cables is being facilitated. USB cables are designed to only be inserted in one particular way.
  5. Door Operation – On an industrial site, there are some items such as dryers, kilns, furnaces and other heat generating facilities that do not operate if the door is open. System sensors will actually indicate to individuals in the control room that the door is open, and then instruct the operations staff to ensure that the problem is rectified before any further startup of the unit can occur. Batch reactors, and any pressure vessels have this capability. With the advent of industry 4.0, sensor technology scatter across the plant will ensure that the equipment remains protected.
  6. Interlock switches: These are critical to machine guarding and to prevent the injury of employees. Moving parts can injure body parts like fingers, so machine guards have the ability to turn off the machine if the guard is lifted. The machine can only work if the guard is on and closed.
  7. Safety Mats: These are similar to those mats that you encounter at places like an airport. With smart sensors, when you step on the mat, the doors will open. Likewise, with safety mats near to equipment that can damage staff, the machine will turn off if an operator steps on the mat, indicating that a human is present.

Poka Yoke systems are here to help your organization and employees to stay protected. With a simplistic nature that will allow the individuals in their environment to make the same decision, they are geared towards uniformity in operations. As a tool that has saved many lives, industrial plants will continue to generate more ideas that will enable us to live an error free plant life.