Within Lean Manufacturing there is a strong emphasis on ensuring that defects or problems in the manufacturing process get fixed as soon as they occur. It is so important to catch defects as soon as they occur that the idea of using machines and automation to help spot issues and shut down the machine when one was detected became an integral part of Lean Manufacturing.
This machine assisted process is known as Jidoka or Autonomation. Autonomation is human-assisted automation or automation that is aided by human intelligence. It is primarily known in manufacturing where machine sensors will shut down a machine if they detect defects.
Jidoka was first used in looms, where previously if there was a defect in the threads used to create fabric, the machine would create piles of fabric that was defective (Lean Enterprise Institute). By detecting an issue with the thread early, the wasted fabric could be eliminated and the machines no longer needed a human to monitor the machine constantly.
The idea of eliminating waste is one of the 7 Core Concepts of Lean. Waste includes defects that a machine or human produces. Jidoka is intended to reduce the number of defects that get made by discovering issues before a human operator gets a chance to even inspect the part being produced.
Books and Educational Material on Jidoka
Jidoka Outside of Manufacturing
Outside of manufacturing, we don’t often hear the word Jidoka, but the Jidoka philosophy is certainly present. Outside of manufacturing, there are two major things produced – Services and Data. The data may be used to provide a service, but it is still produced like any manufactured good following processes along the river of information. Steps are often taken to protect the integrity of the data and alert people when something goes wrong.
Then there is the rise of Robotic Process Automation (RPA). Mistake proofing (Poka-Yoke) is one primary driver of the rise of RPA. However, Many software robots that get built work to assist people in problem detection. I myself have built robots that scanned files looking for issues and alerting people to their presence if they were detected.
Through modern methods, Jidoka lives on and is helping to reduce defects in the information produced. It enables one person to do what once took multiple people to do, in most cases freeing up those people for more important work.
Lean Enterprise Institute. Jidoka. https://www.lean.org/lexicon/jidoka