Understanding Jidoka: A Lean Principle in Manufacturing

Learn about what Jidoka means, its elements in lean manufacturing with examples, and how today’s technology can help uphold the Jidoka principle.

trabajador de lean manufacturing aplicando el principio de jidoka usando una tableta

What is Jidoka?

Jidoka, also known as autonomation, is a principle implemented in lean manufacturing where machines automatically stop working upon detecting an abnormal condition and operators try fixing the defect to prevent the recurrence of the issue. The lean jargon originates from Japanese, which translates in English as “autonomation,” a combination of the words autonomous and automation. 

Literally, Jidoka means automation with a human touch, a key pillar in the Toyota Production System (TPS) which later inspired the House of Lean. The concept of integrating intelligence to machinery makes it easier for a single operator to run multiple machines with minimal effort and for companies to become more profitable as productivity increases.

the meaning of jidoka

A Toyota-created word, Jidoka means including the human element in automation. | Image Source

Jidoka Meaning: History and Development

Jidoka in lean is technically a term created by Toyota that is pronounced exactly like the Japanese word for automation (Jidōka), but it is written differently. Because the character for “human being” has been added to the standard spelling, its meaning has changed. Therefore, the definition of Jidoka can be best understood as “autonomation” meaning automation with a human touch, or autonomous automation.

The origin of Jidoka can be traced back to Sakichi Toyoda, the founder of Toyota which started as a textile manufacturing company. In 1896, he developed a mechanism that could detect broken threads in a loom and automatically stop the machine from producing faulty materials. Prior to his invention, looms continued to make defective fabrics when a thread broke, so workers needed to constantly keep an eye on every machine.

As a practical application of the principle of Jidoka, the weft breakage auto-stop device incorporated into the looms shows automation with human intelligence. It provides assets such as equipment the capability to recognize good parts from bad autonomously, or without being closely monitored by employees. Because of this, one operator can handle several machines, resulting in massive productivity gains. Not only can people be freed from being tied to machinery, but they can also be positioned to do more value-adding work in daily business operations.

Over time, the meaning of Jidoka evolved from simply being an automatic stop of processes in case of irregularities to multi-machine handling with semi-automated machines. Michel Baudin in his book Working with Machines: The Nuts and Bolts of Lean Operations with Jidoka even expands the list of generally accepted definitions with “partial automation,” or the automation of hazardous, burdensome, and time-consuming tasks that cause fatigue throughout a shift or repetitive stress injuries in the course of months or years.

However, Jidoka in Toyota means that a machine must come to a safe stop whenever an abnormality occurs. The goal is not to continuously run machines but to automatically stop them from running when a problem arises. This function helps capture flaws from escaping further down the line, prevents avoidable injuries, minimizes property damage, and empowers teams to enact long-term solutions after examinations of the matter.

Why is Jidoka Important?

Jidoka is important because it is one of the two basic pillars of the world’s most significantly adopted production system. Without it, the House of Lean will fall. Putting the principle to action helps businesses ensure the development of high-quality products because defective goods automatically get detected throughout the manufacturing procedure. Jidoka also empowers frontline workers with a mindset that approaches every problem they identify as an opportunity to improve. It sustains a culture of continuous improvement by learning from the flaws in production and applying solutions instantly instead of wasting them through inactivity.

Jidoka Principle: 4 Elements in Lean Manufacturing

Essentially, Jidoka is built on 4 basic principles: detection, stoppage, response, and prevention. Having a firm grasp of these fundamental components can provide a clearer understanding of the principle and how it can be applied in the business practices of modern manufacturers:

  • Detecting Abnormalities – Every piece of equipment should be installed with the ability to spot mistakes. Moreover, an alert system should be in place to signal the discovery of any abnormality such as product defects, raw material errors, and machine failures.
  • Stopping Production – Upon abnormality detection, machines should be able to automatically cease working in order to contain the issue. Operators should also have the means to manually stop production just in case they notice anything substandard.
  • Taking Actions – With auto-stop mechanisms that halt production, operators should evaluate the situation and call for assistance when necessary. Corrective actions should be carried out within a given timeframe to decide whether to resume production or not.
  • Preventing Recurrence – When quick fixes enable production to go on, managers should retrospectively look into the problem to enforce permanent solutions. When the given time runs out and the issue still persists, a designated team should conduct an investigation to address the root cause and continue production as soon as possible.

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How is Jidoka Implemented?

Jidoka requires a company-wide paradigm shift, from overlooking seemingly small issues for the sake of meeting deadlines to taking responsibility for ensuring quality at the source. Wherever an organization lands in that spectrum, one thing remains certain—at the heart of Jidoka is the human. The key to successful implementation is people working together with machines. Generally, there are 3 simple steps to start Jidoka performance in lean manufacturing:

1. Demonstrate Management Commitment

To set manufacturers up for success in administering a lean production system, managers should regard Jidoka with the same level of importance as Just-in-Time (JIT). They often miss out on growth opportunities because of placing too much emphasis on the continuous flow of labor and materials. However, when the management commits to also actualize Jidoka in the context of the organization, a clear definition should be constructed and communicated. Since it is primarily a principle, everyone in the company should be on the same page about exactly what it means, beginning from the top down and continuing from the ground up.

2. Conduct Readiness Assessments

With direction from leadership to transform the way the company operates, use a Jidoka checklist to determine specific implementation needs. Going through readiness assessments with relevant stakeholders can help the organization understand their conditions better and prepare for changes such as adapting to a radically new framework, documenting requirements in detail, and establishing key elements of the Jidoka performance improvement system, including evaluation, organizational learning, and innovation processes, among others.

jidoka lean checklist for readiness assessment

How to Implement Jidoka: Readiness Assessment | View Checklist

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3. Execute Practical Applications

Upon recognizing and filling in implementation gaps, plan and initiate a specific Jidoka project with a cross-functional team. One of the fastest ways to scale it is through Andon, setting up machines or assembly lines with the capacity to surface problems and stop production. As a visual management system, operators can efficiently alert managers about issues so fixes can be made at the onset. Previously, the operator just normally restarts the machine when it stops because of a mistake. With a practical application of Jidoka, staff members can now confidently raise safety or quality concerns and place countermeasures that can prevent recurrence.

Jidoka Examples

One of the most famous examples of Jidoka is the Toyoda Automatic Loom Type G, the perfected version of the 1896 loom which was eventually patented 28 years later. Not only did the 1924 loom possess auto-stop devices, but it also features a non-stop shuttle change motion, where materials can be automatically supplied to the machine without reducing speed during ongoing operation.

Another Jidoka example is the automatic stop function of modern printing machines when papers get jammed. Printers can detect if something weird is going on with their paper supply, stopping the printing process and notifying the user about the error. Once the paper jam gets cleared, the print recommences while averting damages to its quality and the printer itself.

Jona Tarlengco
Article by
Jona Tarlengco
SafetyCulture Content Specialist
Jona Tarlengco is a content writer and researcher for SafetyCulture since 2018. She usually writes about safety and quality topics, contributing to the creation of well-researched articles. Her years of experience in one of the world’s leading business news organisations helps enrich the quality of the information in her work.