Discover why poka yoke is so important in the manufacturing industry and how businesses can use it with examples and a free digital tool
Published 28 Apr 2022
Poka yoke is a Japanese term meaning “avoiding mistakes or errors” and is pronounced as poe-kah yo-kay. Developed by Shigeo Shingo in the 1960s, it is a process improvement technique that significantly reduces the number of defects produced. Poka yoke achieves this by placing barriers against mistakes (i.e. eliminating opportunities for errors to be made).
While the term may not be familiar, everyone practices poka yoke in some form or another in their daily lives. When you wake up really early in the morning to make sure you don’t miss the bus to work, that’s poka yoke. Telling your coworkers before an office party that you’re allergic to shrimp so they know not to put it in the food is also poka yoke.
Poka yoke (or mistake proofing) is, essentially, planning or preparing in advance so that something bad doesn’t happen.
Outside of personal matters, use poka yoke when:
These are just some examples of when to use mistake proofing. There may be other situations which call for it but, ultimately, the decision to use or not use poka yoke is up to you and the other stakeholders in your business.
Given that the conditions mentioned in the previous section are what some may call “accidents waiting to happen,” it’s wise to give poka yoke serious consideration and take the time to fully understand the consequences of choosing to not implement it.
Here are the possible effects if situations, such as the ones above, are left unchecked:
If you and other stakeholders have decided that poka yoke is right for your business, here’s what you can expect after implementation (in the best-case scenario):
One of the key advantages of mistake proofing is that the process doesn’t always have to change. This is especially relevant to businesses in manufacturing since some of their processes cannot, for either quality or safety reasons, be changed. Changing them completely or replacing them would also take up a lot of time, money, and effort.
But with poka yoke, processes don’t need to go through a drastic transformation to become more efficient.
If you’re set on implementing poka yoke in your business, or even just trying it out, use this guide to develop a clearer understanding of where it would fit in your process:
Closely investigate where the defect was first identified. From there, retrace its processing history and note down all the possible points where a mistake could have been made. Note down as well the possible reasons why a person would make that particular mistake.
Using Toyota’s production process for making a vehicle as reference
Once you have finished listing down the sources of defects, select a few of them to prioritize. Choose ones that have a domino effect on other aspects of production or have the biggest impact on the creation of the defect.
To help you choose the best overall poka yoke method for your process, refer to the flowchart below:
A Simple Guide for Selecting a Poka Yoke Method | SafetyCulture
Also take into consideration the defect sources you have prioritized in the first step. Though choosing one method for each defect source is generally not recommended, there may be special cases where doing so is the best possible option.
If you’re still unsure about which method to apply, hold an open discussion with the workers and/or other stakeholders to get their input for your final decision.
After you’ve implemented poka yoke, which would look different depending on the method you have chosen, now is a good time to test its effectiveness using inspection checklists. For mistake proofing, there are 3 types of inspections:
Conduct inspections to check for defects
iAuditor by SafetyCulture is an operations management platform trusted by thousands of global brands including Toyota, General Electric, Siemens, and Unilever. Do poka yoke more efficiently with these iAuditor features:
Spot the sources of defects instantly by connecting with the factory floor workers on the mobile app. Using the Issues feature, workers can easily let you know if there are any existing conditions that make it harder for them to do the job error-free.
Retrace the processing histories of defects with ease. Use a digital template as a guide in outlining the different steps in the process. Add questions, images, notes and more to your digital template, so that it captures your process perfectly.
Are defects affecting your bottom line? If so, it may be time to see the bigger picture, and not just the minor details. Finding out what needs to be done and implementing those changes only works if you have a system in place.
With data coming in from digital templates, inspection checklists, and the Issues feature, your analytics dashboard in iAuditor is supplied with all the info you need to make improvements fast and effectively.
Get started for free with iAuditor.
iAuditor is not only a digital tool for poka yoke, it’s also a digital tool for everything else. From operations to quality and safety, iAuditor can be used for a variety of functions. To find out more, take a look at our use case library or our public library of free templates.
Not only that, iAuditor is also one of the most cost-efficient choices out there. With the free version, you can get up to 10 seats with just one account. Though, of course, with the premium plan, you’ll get more features, such as the data analytics dashboard discussed previously.
While the premium plan starts at $19, there is a 30-day free trial available, if ever you’re unsure.
But what else can iAuditor bring to the table?
Based on Forrester’s Total Economic Impact study of SafetyCulture, the platform can bring in the following benefits over a three-year period:
Zarina is a content writer and researcher for SafetyCulture. She enjoys discovering new ways for businesses to improve their safety, quality, and operations. She is working towards helping companies become more efficient and better equipped to thrive through change.
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