Introduction to Poka-Yoke
Poka-yoke is a lean manufacturing method for eliminating mistakes. The Japanese engineer Shiego Shingo developed it in the 1960s. Soon after, it was implemented as part of the Toyota Production System(TPS).
The name poka-yoke comes from Japanese, and it translates as “to avoid errors”. This simple, yet effective method uses effective tools and signals to prevent errors from happening. Including quality or safety defects in processes where the output can be physical products and services. The method is applicable in both cases.
This method allows businesses to notice and address any unusual or unexpected outcomes early on in the process. And continue the work according to specification. Thus, significantly reduce costly defects or problems in the final product/service.
Even though we may not be aware, poka-yoke is present in our daily lives. Eliminating mistakes is everyday life ranges from performing a simple spell check to the numerous safety features present all types of electronic devices, appliances, cars, and much more. Let’s go through some examples of how error-proofing is present around us, helping us perform a task better or keeping us safe.
Example 1: Household Items and Appliances: Microwaves, Washing Machines, Dishwashers
Many household appliances have a control function that prevents the process from running until the door or lid is closed. That way, the contents won’t spill or fall off, and the user or anyone touching them won’t get hurt. In addition to not starting the operation until the lid is closed, most devices have a safeguard that prevents users from opening them while in operation too.
Some examples are washing and drying machines, microwaves, ovens, blenders. Household items and appliances incorporate safety methods that help users operate them properly while staying safe. And are excellent examples of poka-yoke in everyday life.
Example 2: Cars
Cars come equipped with many safety features. That’s not new. For the past 10 years, and more, cars would beep and a signal light would turn on if a door is not closed, or if a passenger seat belt is not fastened. There are also alerts for leaving the light on after you turn the engine off, or if you don’t pull the key out of the ignition.
But in recent years, safety technology is cars has significantly advanced. It has become normal for most cars to have computer systems and LCD displays through which the driver can control many things. From adjusting the brake settings to driving modes for different weather or terrain conditions. Since these computer systems are using many sensors, they can also auto adjust, and additionally alert the drivers when there’s a slippery road ahead, if they are leaving their lane or have come close to another car.
The application of poka-yoke in cars and error-proofing driving is very important. It’s not only making our driving easier or more economical, but also much safer.
Example 3: ATMs
You might think there’s no need to error-proof ATMs, except for reminding you to type your PIN number correctly. (No, I did not have my card taken by the ATM a couple of times now due to an incorrectly entered PIN. Noup. It was three times.) But, early on, banks noticed a very inconvenient problem among their customers. They would use the ATM and drive off leaving their debit card in the card slot of the machine. To mend this, banks implemented an effective poka-yoke signal. ATMs sound an alarm that continues to go off until you take your card from the slot.
Another example of poka-yoke in ATM machines is having your cash “eaten” by the machine. Since people also happen to leave in a hurry and forget to take their money, the banks decided to add another safety measure. When the cash is available, the ATM sound an alarm too. But the cash is there only for a short while. Then, after 30 seconds or so, the ATM pulls the money back and automatically refunds it to you. This way, the back protects you from losing money.
Example 4: Treadmills
Another type of equipment that (some of us) use regularly are treadmills. Whether it’s only to walk or run, users can misstep, get a muscle cramp, or suddenly lose speed. All of these and many other situations can cause users to trip and fall. In order to prevent injuries, treadmills come equipped with safety clips that users attach to themselves, usually to their clothing. And if the user gets too far back (or falls) and pulls the cord that attaches the safety to the treadmill, the machine will instantly stop. This mechanism is another clear example of poka-yoke in action.
Example 5: Hotel Room Key Card Activated Electricity
Since most hotel guests don’t bother to turn off the lights and other electronics when they leave their room. Which leads to uncontrolled electricity consumption, and increased carbon footprint. So hotels have come up with an ingenious way of controlling how much electricity do guests spend. The key-card activated electricity switches.
To activate the switch, guests need to place their key-card in the holder usually placed by the door. When the key-card is not in the holder, there is no electricity in the room. Since guests have to return the key-card when they check out, there’s no way for any lights or electronic devices to remain on. This amazing poka-yoke example helps hotels save on electricity without relying on the goodwill of the guests. Instead, they can automatically control electricity consumption.
Error Proofing Increases Quality
Even the most mundane daily tasks wouldn’t be so simple if we don’t use some sort of system to help us prevent errors. Errors that would normally cost us time and money. And even lead to putting ourselves and others in danger. One approach that offers us a way to foolproof many of these everyday ‘defects’ is poka-yoke.
Using poka-yoke makes it very convenient to perform numerous tasks. It saves us a lot of time and allows us to do many things without thinking. It keeps us safe by not letting us forget to perform a specific action. Thus, significantly increases the quality of our lives. Without them, we’d have to be attentive to what we do or how we operate certain machines and appliances. Otherwise, we’d be in trouble very often ?
Isn’t poka-yoke amazing? Where have you noticed poka-yoke in everyday life? Share your experience with us!