Understanding Digital Andon and Its Role in the Factory
Andon is a lean manufacturing concept that’s making a big splash in Industry 4.0 as both a vestige of the human-centric production environment and a new-age integrated part of digital manufacturing. It’s a visual alert system that highlights the status of production processes, signaling any anomalies or issues as they occur. Today, it’s also bridging the gap between automation and human-involved production.
“Andon” is a Japanese term that originally referred to a traditional paper lantern. In the context of manufacturing, the term was adopted to describe the system of lights used to signal the status of production. It was popularized by the Toyota Production System, where it became a key tool for maintaining quality and efficiency.
In modern manufacturing, Andon systems can be integrated with other technological systems, providing real-time data and analytics to further enhance efficiency and responsiveness.
Key elements of Andon
- Visual signals: Andon systems usually include visual signals like colored lights or boards. For example, a green light might indicate normal operations, a yellow light could signify a minor issue or a need for caution, and a red light might indicate a serious problem or a halt in the production process.
- Immediate response: When an issue arises, the Andon system alerts operators and managers immediately. This prompt notification allows for quick response to rectify the issue, minimizing downtime and potential defects.
- Workforce empowerment: Andon systems empower workers to halt production if they detect a problem. This is based on the principle that preventing defects and solving problems as they arise are more efficient than correcting defects later in the process.
- Problem-solving and continuous improvement: The Andon system is part of a broader approach to continuous improvement (kaizen). When a problem is detected and production is stopped, teams work together to solve the issue, not just to get production moving again but also to prevent future occurrences.
- Integration with lean manufacturing: Andon is often used as part of lean manufacturing practices. In lean manufacturing, the focus is on eliminating waste and ensuring efficiency. The Andon system helps identify bottlenecks, defects, or other forms of waste in real time.
Andon in the digital factory
Modern-day Andon systems have evolved into sophisticated tools that integrate visual signals, often with advanced technology like real-time data analytics and automated alerts to monitor and manage manufacturing processes. These systems also facilitate immediate response and problem-solving, enhancing efficiency, quality control, and continuous improvement.
Digital Andon systems also bridge the gap between humans and automation by providing a platform where human insights and machine-driven data converge. They supplement Andon’s traditional visual cues with real-time data analytics and automated alerts, empowering workers to act with context and information versus solely on visual cues.
Andon is more important than ever
Lean concepts continue to be a staple in factory efficiency, and Andon is growing more important each year. By providing immediate feedback on the production line, Andon plays a crucial role in helping to minimize downtime, reduce defects, and optimize efficiency — all with the context of data from smart factory systems.