What is poka yoke?

Poka yoke is something you might hear when talking about Lean manufacturing. It is a Japanese term meaning “mistake proofing,” and was developed as part of the Toyota Production System. Shigeo Shingo, an engineer at Toyota, is credited with the conceptualization of poka yoke, a technique for building and engineering mechanisms into a process that will prevent workers from making mistakes.

When used outside of manufacturing, poka yoke is a behavior-shaping constraint that you have probably experienced in your own life. For example, ever try to open a bottle of aspirin? Aspirin bottles and other medications feature a child lock that prevents children from getting into it and chewing on the tablets.

Poke yoke can be implemented at any step of the manufacturing process. Some common examples of the concept being used in a facility include machine guards that keep workers from coming in contact with a hazard and motion sensors on saw blades that stop the saw when a hand or fingers gets too close.

Another benefit of poka yoke is the impact it has on a company’s overall quality control efforts. When a production process is designed with poka yokes built into it, you can use mechanisms to prevent mistakes as the product goes down the line or catch defects before they move to the next step. It is a simple solution that can help get to the root of problems and prevent them early on.

Poke yoke can be an extremely beneficial strategy and has the potential to increase safety and production flexibility, lower costs, simplified training, decreased set-up times, and more. The concept of poke yoke can be applied to any industry or business and is not limited to the manufacturing sect. It is a tried and true method that can help the bottom line and save time no matter the type of industry you’re in.

Additional Poka Yoke facts:

  • Poka yoke is a Japanese term that means “mistake-proofing” or “error prevention”. It is a process improvement technique that significantly reduces the number of defects produced by preventing, correcting, or drawing attention to human errors as they occur. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poka-yoke
  • Poka yoke was developed by Shigeo Shingo in the 1960s as part of the Toyota Production System. He redesigned a process in which factory workers would often forget to insert a required spring under one of the switch buttons. He used a placeholder to help the workers remember to insert the spring and avoid the mistake. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poka-yoke
  • Poka yoke can be applied to any process that involves human interaction, such as manufacturing, service, or office work. Poka yoke can be classified into three types: contact methods, fixed-value methods, and motion-step methods. Contact methods detect physical attributes such as shape, size, or color. Fixed-value methods ensure that a certain number of actions or steps are performed. Motion-step methods signal the completion or non-completion of a step. Source: https://www.lucidchart.com/blog/poka-yoke-in-lean-manufacturing
  • Poka yoke can benefit businesses by improving quality, reducing costs, increasing customer satisfaction, and enhancing safety. Poka yoke can also empower workers by giving them feedback, autonomy, and responsibility. Source: https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/poka-yoke-meaning
  • Poka yoke can be implemented using simple and inexpensive devices, such as sensors, checklists, alarms, or color-coding. Poka yoke can also be integrated with digital tools, such as software, apps, or online platforms. Source: https://safetyculture.com/topics/poka-yoke/

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