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Andon - An information tool which provides instant visible and audible warning that there is an error condition.

Andon is a manufacturing term referring to a signboard incorporating signal lights, audio alarms, and text or other displays installed at a workstation to notify management and other workers of a quality or process problem. The alert can be activated manually by a worker, or may be activated automatically by the production equipment itself. Typically, it will incorporate both a visual indicator and an audible alarm.

An Andon system is one of the principle elements of the Jidoka quality-control method. It gives the worker the ability to stop production when a defect is found, and immediately call for assistance. Common reasons for manual activation of the Andon are part shortage, defect created or found, tool malfunction, or a safety problem exists. Work is stopped until a solution has been found out. The alerts may be logged to a database so that they can be studied as part of a continuous-improvement program.

The system will typically indicate where the alert was generated, and may also provide a description of the trouble. Modern Andon systems can include text, graphics, or audio elements. Audio alerts may be done with coded tones, music with different tunes corresponding to the various alerts, or pre-recorded verbal messages.

Usage of the word originated within Japanese manufacturing companies, and in English is a loanword from a Japanese word for a paper lantern.

What an Andon System does:
l. Andon allows timely corrective actions by alerting personnel when abnormal conditions occur.
2. Allows Shop floor Team Leaders to spend less time and effort monitoring the situation, and more time solving abnormalities.
3. Allows Operation teams to monitor equipment and personnel more effectively.
4. It can act as a 2 way communication device e.g. When indicator returns to green; this tells everybody it’s ‘back to normal’

What an Andon System doesn’t do:
l. Solve Abnormalities
2. Prevent all defects from being passed forward
3. Replace good verbal communication between work groups
4. Remove the need for rectification or customer protection

Direct Benefits of Andon
1. Control the production
2. Operators have the ability to ‘stop call wait’
3. Defect reportability & correction, operators can report faults immediately and countermeasures can be implemented at source
4. Safety/ ergonomics, identifies safety and body stress concerns Even loading (balanced processes) will allow re-balance of process if over burden occurs 5. Workable design highlights problems with work density

Implementation Guidelines:
• Implement following Standard Operations – stability
• Team structure / ratio / roles and responsibility
• Identify work zones / stations
• Divide the process into manageable steps
• Determine what conditions must be measured
• Design the andon board
• Set the escalation procedure
• Determine the support structure
• Set the criteria for collating downtime data
• Determine confirmation points / regularity
• Set effective communication structure
• Visualise problem solving status
• Andon systems should be thought out and appropriate in design to be effective.
• Andon systems should be implemented when and only when an appropriate support system and escalation procedure is in place (Service Level Agreements, problem solving process etc.)
• Andon signals should be simple and easy to understand
• Avoid spending too much money on a ‘State of the art’ Andon System, prove the system out with a simple manual system to judge it’s worth.

Also see: Brief Definition of Andon