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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: The key to Jidoka: small span of control and a disciplined method of problem solving

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Saturday, August 21, 2010 - Save & Share - Leave a comment

“Jidoka” is not a single thing you implement.  It is one of the two main pillars of TPS.  Just-in-time is a complex set of tools, principles, and disciplines and Jidoka is certainly nothing less.  The original concept came from Sakichi Toyoda’s loom that stopped itself when there was a quality problem, which also separated the operator from the machine, allowing operators to run multiple machines and do more value added work.  In modern Toyota plants it is often translated into the andon system of line stopping and quick response to problems one by one.  I think of it is building in quality at every step of the process and stopping if there is a problem before the problem escapes to the next process. The point of doing that is to make problems visible so they can be solved at the root one by one, which interestingly is also the point of just-in-time.  Thus, the system is one of surfacing problems, prioritizing them, and solving them which strengthens both the process and the people solving the problem.  Solving the problem is very generic and applies equally well to problems with cost, quality, delivery, safety and morale. We can reduce all of quality to solving problems at the root which can start with anticipating the problem using tools like FMEA and solving them before they actually happen.

When we work with companies we solve the critical problems needed at the processes and in the value streams that we are working on.  It is a natural part of the process and does not need to be called out as “jidoka.”  One of the most difficult things for companies I am familiar with is the system of andon.  They want to reduce it to a whiz bang light system when the real point is quick response and root-cause problem solving.   It requires a small enough span of control that a leader can respond immediately to problems and a disciplined method of problem solving and few companies have either.

Certainly a company with strong quality systems is already well on its way to jidoka, though in my experience companies with great quality systems on paper often are very weak at actually building in quality and weak at problem solving.  Getting that discipline developed, what Rother calls the improvement kata, is far more challenging and far more beneficial than hanging andon lights and setting up pull systems.

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