Previously, I talked about the role of the andon as a function of “Quality at the source.” We use andons on our manufacturing lines to alert the company to any problems, essentially raising a signal and stopping the production lines.
Stopping of production lines is a quick way to raise a lot of attention when you have shipping dollars waiting every day for product coming off that line and any delay has an effect on shippable dollars and inventory expenses, not to mention throughput dollars.
But what happens when there’s a problem in an office environment? Wait. Literally. Maybe place a call to someone and wait for a response. Maybe an email. Maybe stop by someone’s desk and see if they’re around. In the meantime, we wait.
It seems so easy for people to accept andons in a manufacturing environment and to understand that when a line stops, a lot of tension is created. In the office, as we have discovered, it’s not always so easy. We tend to view waiting for a problem to be solved as just something we’ve always done.
At Morey, we implemented andons in the office to immediately call attention to situations in a department that would stop a person from doing their work. In Customer Service, it may be an issue that doesn’t allow an order to ship, or even be entered. In the Planning department, it may be a delay on the line that is requiring an adjustment to the build schedule, or a component shortage that has shut down a line and is impacting a build/ship schedule. In our Materials group, it may be a delay in getting a part on order that will eventually impact a build, and by default, a future shipment.
We follow the andon process the same that it would be followed on the floor by having a help chain and an escalation pattern. We have used this to identify gaps in our systems that seemingly have always been there. This definitely has been a challenge for us as we are uncovering age-old issues that have always been overcome. The biggest challenge has been to convince people to NOT overcome them, but to raise the andon so we can identify it and fix it forever.
If you try this at your company, be prepared for a potential landslide of opportunities. Remember, this is a good thing. But just exposing them is the first part. Now, let’s fix them forever. The gains will surprise you.
David Seifrid is manager of planning and customer support at The Morey Corporation.