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Andon is a visual control system in lean manufacturing that notifies the employees of a problem in the process. It may be triggered manually or automatically. Andon takes it name from a traditional Japanese paper lantern.


An application-oriented question on the topic along with responses can be seen below. The best answer was provided by Sudhir Gayakwad and Sourabh Nandi


Applause for all the respondents - Aritra Das Gupta, Meet Maheshwari, Sudhir Gayakwad, Mallikarjun Koripadu, Mohamed Asif, Sourabh Nandi, J R Sankar


Also review the answer provided by Mr Venugopal R, Benchmark Six Sigma's in-house expert.


Q 285. What is an "Andon"? Describe some varied applications of Andon Systems.


Note for website visitors - Two questions are asked every week on this platform. One on Tuesday and the other on Friday.

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Everyone knows his child hood stories of Alarms given by  elders about not doing something by some typical facial actions, sounds or even by showing something. It was to warn a child for not doing something else he may get hurt, he may get injured or there could be an accident. And it used to work; the child will remember all those actions, alarms and will not go near those things, will not touch and this way his life was saved. He continued the same thing when he was matured enough to teach other children’s.


Really a very powerful technique of teaching, alarming and warning someone not to do something or in better way – To Do – “Not go near, Not to Touch etc.”


In actual practice happening something wrong, variation in the process, small or major accidents are the part of a regular smooth, nonstop, productive process.


We are in manufacturing sector so let us discuss about Manufacturing.

§  In manufacturing set up there are so many different processes running continuously and at a very high speed. These high speed processes are producing million tons of products or units in million. The pace is such a high; the variation in process will lead to heavy losses.

§  If there could be a small addition of Friction in heating of moving parts – it can lead to a bigger accident in near future.

§  If it is not monitored for its output, there could be wastage of resources.

Today we are in most competitive, cost conscious, quality conscious, delivery conscious world and will never afford all above wrong things from happening.


Fortunately we are in the most advancing era of technology, manufacturing techniques are evolving day by day and we have got a powerful tool at our help to save manufacturing process is ‘Andon’


Andon – Is the Alarming, Notifying systems developed for managers, Supervisors, workers etc to highlight the health of the manufacturing (or any system) system.

Lean production system is the boon to the modern age manufacturing, Andon is also one of the principle developed by lean only.


An Andon system is the one of the principle elements of the Jidoka quality control method pioneered by Toyota Production system and therefore now part of the Lean Production approach.


Jidoka – Is the automation with human touch or simply Intelligent Automation –

It is the combination of Automation and human interference.

As fully automatic systems are not cost effective to make it more cost effective and also to produce effective quality products human interference is essential.

So – Andon – it  gives the workers the empowerment to stop the production line, production machine if any abnormality is detected.


There are so many techniques available by which a worker can detect rather come to know about the abnormal operation is the system.


A.   Audio VisualWith the help of different types of sensors system can detect any sort of abnormality happening in the system. It could be small displacement in the components, it could be more load (stress) coming on the components, it could be temperature variation. There are lots of digital gauges available and they keeps monitoring the system round the clock and keeps alarming the workers, supervisors or even managers about health of the system. With the advancement in automaton there are visual displays (HMI - Human Machine Interface) which gives the exact location where there is malfunction happening. With this alarm ( there is whistle with notification) the operator stops the machine and attend the challenge and avoids major losses. If the challenge on the machine or in the system is sever, even in that case machine stops with alarm and notification display. The operator, maintenance team can act immediately to save the major losses.

               All these notifications are coded and in SCADA system all those notifications are recorded systematically and gives the frequency of each notification along with the duration it took to rectify. This analysis gives way for Kaizen which leads in reduction in such uncertainty and eventually uniform uninterrupted production.

               Recently machine learning is also coming to our help by giving or poping notifications before taking any action which may lead to loss of data or any uncerytainty.


B.   Manual – In so many assembly lines there are provisions to stop the line if there is any abnormality found in any spares, shortages of spares etc. With this complete system gets alarm and work in down the line is adjusted accordingly. Simultaneously the concern department heads get the alarm to replenish the stocks.

Manual systems though tedious, troublesome,  still essential in some cases. Everyone knows the great Titanic disaster. There are few sensory alarms human eyes, nose and ears detect very rapidly and need immediate action. This is most effective activity only humans can do with inbuilt system.



  • The alarms, the moment malfunction or variation in system starts stops the system and major losses are saved. It helps to keep the wastages in control, saves cost and keeps profitability in control.
  • The systematic records of abnormality gives ways for Kaizen Burst and scope for Continual Improvement which the only way to keep progressing towards growth.
  • Once there is continual improvement, there is uniform production at specified productivity which is very essential to maintain oneself in today’s competitive market.
  • It improves moral of the employees with safe working atmosphere. Less defects – less stops, less stops – happy employees, Happy employees – less accidents.

Let’s continue to explore!


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Andon System 3GsI89WDQ6Tx0Q31gdNYNLqwm91M8UcbuLkXdQzSih_92XOCKyvUVK7l3AHd3BRgm_pFKaOjXFDM-gG464aq5R_0JflSDs9WoeTyGlR62iVXpQWIOObf9mGmJEsHLXFNK0dE5Mat
The origin of the “Andon” word in Japanese comes from the utilization of traditional lighting equipment employing a burning lamp made out of bamboo and paper. This “Andon” idea translated for manufacturing in Japan. The “Andon” became used as a proof to spotlight an anomaly (i.e., a flashing light). This signal would amplify potential defects in quality. When an error was suspected, an indication board would display a sign to the precise workstation having an issue. The signal event would also show that it stopped the system for the defect and expected the matter to be resolved. Ending an operation when an error was suspected originates from the initial Toyota Production System.

The thought behind Jidoka is that by stopping the system, which helps to find a root cause against letting the defect move further down the road and be unresolved.  


Andon Cord
Taiichi Ohno established a radical innovation when he went back to Toyota. At each step of the production line, he placed a rope called the andon cord. Ohno instructed the workers that if they saw a problem, they must immediately pull the cable, which might slow or stop the road so engineers, line workers, and even suppliers could confer and rectify the error.


Electronic Andon Board
Workshop leaders must be kept up on how smoothly things are moving into their workshops. The earlier they learn of abnormalities or other problems in their workshops, the earlier they will analyze the case and rectify it. Andon (alarm lights) makes an excellent tool for alerting workshop personal and other supervisors to identify problems on the factory floor.  Andon is a unique lamp that illuminates issues within the factory. There are four types of andon given in the below figure. 


1) Paging Andon
Paging andon are often accustomed request supplies of parts for the assembly line. When parts are near to run out at a process, the operator sends out proof that lights the andon. Which also notifies those that operate the parts supply system. The suppliers’ quick movement around the factory in collecting and supplying parts is additionally called “mizusumashi” or beetle. There are two kinds of “whirligig beetle” techniques. One is that the “hire” method, during which a bunch of andon page the carts used for supplying parts. The different technology is that the “taxi” method during which dispersed andon page the carts. The below figure illustrates the “hire” method for paging andon. 


2) Warning Andon 
Warning andon is mainly used on assembly lines and will differ depending upon the length of the road. On short assembly lines, people tend to use “aeroplane andon.” Like the attendee call buttons on passenger seats in commercial aeroplanes, each process within the production line has an emergency call button. When one in every one of these buttons is pressed, the andon board for the mechanical system lights up and shows which process’s button was pressed.


Warning andon is mainly used on assembly lines and will differ depending upon the length of the road. On short assembly lines, people tend to use “aeroplane andon.” Like the attendee call buttons on passenger seats in commercial aeroplanes, each process within the mechanical system has an emergency call button. When one in all these buttons is pressed, the andon board for the line lights up and shows which process’s button was pressed.

The following may be a detailed description of how “aeroplane andon” is used.


The above form of warning andon configuration works tolerably when the mechanical system is brief enough to see all of the andon, processes, and operators. However, longer lines make it impossible to determine the full range and every one of its operators. During this event, the andon are lined up in an exceedingly centralised board, as shown in the figure. 


3) Operation Andon 
Operation andon indicate machine operating statuses. When the device has been stopped, the operation andon shows the explanation for the stoppage.


4) Progress Andon
Many assembly lines have short pitch times, like 1- or 2-minute tact intervals. When a range has such a brief tact time, the progress of operations is straightforward to look at just by monitoring the rhythm. It is tough to sense delays in lines with longer tact times, like 10 or 20 minutes. Progress andon enable line operators to measure the progress of their operations.


Most progress andon is divided into ten equal sections. Still, the most ideal is to own the assorted stages of the operations correspond in a very level manner to the varied andon sections. When the progress andon board has changed within the case of conveyor lines, the limit switches can also detect the response.

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Andon boards have been used majorly in manufacturing.The terminology Andon notifies the management,quality staff that there is a quality related problem.


This is more of a visual display and can make use of a cord or a button which can be pulled or pressed by a worker if he feels there is some problem in the production line.This is one of the key principles used in the Toyota production system. The rational is a worker will be specialised in whatever he is working at and so he is best suited to identify any production related issue which can cause problem relate to Quality.


There can be alarm raised by a worker regarding safety.This enables the worker to stop production if he knows there are issues and this drives the Quality culture cause he is taking ownership for his work.


 Some potential reasons why a worker can activate this might be he detects an error or some safety related issues or may be there are some tool or machines which are not working properly.This can be stated as some of the potential reasons.Once the worker has raised an alarm through the Andon board the work is stopped till a solution is found out for the problem.As a practise these problems are documented in a database so that this can be referred in future.


Andon board was first used in manufacturing sector but since then it has been widely used in service areas as well :- 


1.Andon board can be used in contact centre to show the number of call waiting 

2.There is usage in IT department where it can show the internet speed and highlight any problems and act as a visual display 

3.This can be used in banks and even have been used in parking lots to show the availability of parking space 


Manufacturing sector have evolved from using manual Andon boards to Andon lights which can be automated and can help to indicate any abnormalities automatically without human intervention.


As we enter in 2021 there is more research happening in this field and the usage and the application is getting defined to new standards by using AI,RPA .




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Andon is basically an alert system.

The term "Andon" is a Japanese word which translates to "Paper lantern". It refers to a system which can easily and quickly notify supervisors, maintenance team members, etc. It's part of Jidoka approach which empowers a non-managerial employee with the authority to stop a process to tackle quality issues.


Andon system is mostly placed at the top part of a machine, so that it can be seen easily from any part of the shop floor and is generally integrated with a buzzer sound nowadays . Andon system can have different bright colors like red, orange, green etc where each color and tone of buzzer would have different message for the team.


Andon can be activated manually by an operator (by using specific buttons) or it can automatically activated by the equipment (by using sensors) if there's a defect, safety issue, material shortage etc issues which needs immediate assistance. The line stays down untill the issues are corrected.

Nowadays andons can have graphical images, text displays, SOS message to smart phones/ tablets of team members.


Later these stops are documented and root cause analysis is carried out on the system to ensure these issues are not repeated.


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Andon is termed per Japanese as, 'paper lantern'. It is nothing but principles of Jidoka quality control. As name describe 'paper lantern' which was used in olden days to find misses and we call it as a visual management in today's environment to identify the bottlenecks. This system enables the employee or an operator to take action by pulling an andon card throught the assembly line if any abnormalities and any potential bottlenecks. Basically in this andon system, it gives the signals by visuals and based in the visuals an automatic alarm to employee. 

One of the example is in the hospital is, patients safety systems used in many hospitals. If any abnormalities in the vitals the machine or instrument gives signals so that healthcare professional attend immediately. 

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Benchmark Six Sigma Expert View by Venugopal R

The term “Andon” in Japanese means ‘paper lantern’. It is believed that such lanterns were used for providing a visual signal as well to communicate a message over a long distance. The term “Andon” was first used by Toyota for referring to any system or method used for signalling.


Andon could be a signal in the form of visual, audio, symbolic or text to provide a notification to the concerned personnel in a workplace or even a public place, as a caution or information about a regular or irregular condition that may require attention or some action to be taken.


Andon notification could be for notifying Management, Maintenance, Quality or any other stakeholder in an organization. Andons can provide ‘real-time’ feedback about a process.


Incidentally, 'Andon cord' refers to a cord that was used in the manufacturing facilities, which could be pulled by the worker to alert any problem and even stop the line.


Andons are very important to be integrated with various lean methodologies like the 5S, Poka Yoke and VSM. They have a wide application and are prevalent in many areas of our day-to-day life.


Below are just a few examples of areas of Andon application:


Production process – Number displays or Trend charts indicating the performance of a process. Andon warning lights in a production line are sometimes linked with sensors, PLCs and computer databases for automatic triggering of the signals.

Floor layout – Yellow / Black markings on the floor indicating the pathways, storage locations, trolley parking locations.

Material status identification – Identifying the status of materials, for eg. Waiting for inspection, Replenishment required, Accepted, Rejected etc by tags or color of bins.

Cautions – Flashing lights to warn people about an equipment functioning, caution boards to indicate presence of high voltage, slippery surface etc.

Office – Monthly stratified sales status against targets, BPM dashboards, Lean Six Sigma projects status, Training schedule and status.

Control related – Visual indication of oil levels, battery levels, odometer of a car, Statistical control charts.

Hospitals – Patient Admissions, Occupancy details, Healthcare personnel allocation and availability.

Banks – Display of currency exchange rates, interest rates, customer token display.


Identifying opportunities for Andons in any work place is a continuous improvement activity. The intent should be to identify the simplest possible method that would prove adequately effective and sustainable. Based on the feedback on effectiveness of usage, existing Andon systems need to be improved periodically.

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自働化 - Jidoka - Autonomation


Simply means process automatically halts when there are non conformities/irregularities/abnormalities in the system and it can also act as early warning device in manufacturing unit


Andon light system is one of the Vital component in Autonomation.
In the below reference pic, Andon is used as Visual Management tool to know the status of the production. 



Legend reference:
Green - All Good, Normal Operation > Proceed further
Yellow - Warning - Issue Identified, require attention > CAPA required 
Red - Production halted > Issue not identified; Immediate Supervisor inspection and RCA required

Andon systems are commonly used in the below industries:

  • Automotive manufacturing
  • Packaging and shipping
  • Retail
  • Textile
  • Inventory management
  • Medical and Healthcare

Example in healthcare:
Visual Andon which include lights on Code Blue carts to indicate that they need to be checked for the day and intrusive computer screen alerts for pharmacists that indicate a patient allergy or contraindicated medication.

Auditory Andon which beeps alarm on infusion pumps which gives signal stating medication is nearly gone or indicate there is defect with tubing and the audible alarm indicates acute medical emergencies

Andon System has wide range of applications and below listed are few:

  • It can Reduce downtime to enhance OEE
  • It could significantly contribute to quality improvements due to shortened downtime
  • Improved communication between operators and engineers
  • Evaluating Incidents and instances from Andon events can lead to Poka Yoke applications
  • Advanced system (@Next-gen Andon systems) can display KPI metrics and data with real-time embedded data
  • Productions systems can be remotely managed by data flowing into tablets and smartphones
  • Improved Productivity
  • Reduced Lead-time
  • Reduction in equipment failure rate
  • Improved customer service
  • Lower Costs

However, there are few challenges as well, such as below which needs to be taken care

High cost implementation

Misunderstanding of automation leads to misapplication

Difficulty of small enterprises hiring qualified staff

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  ANDON is one of the ‘LEAN’ tools used in Manufacturing. It is a highly effective Visual Management tool which enables the operations to run smoothly without bottlenecks.

Andon is a system that gives signals to the worker or maintenance or management, like the traffic lights with three colors on top of each level of production assembly line. Whenever there is a problem in the production line, the worker activates the Andon usually by a pulling a chord or button, which automatically halts the production, so that the team can find root cause of the problem and then quickly apply a solution.

The warning lights are easily visible, overhead signboard, which also identifies the area where the problem has occurred.

The Andon used on production floors has evolved from basic cords and lights to visual boards. These boards provide a quick glance view of production status and easily identifies the location of problems to be addressed.

Andons are activated manually or automatically. It is activated manually when a production line worker engages an Andon device like a cord or button.

Andon cords and their significance table


An automatic Andon is instantly activated when a process or machine encounters an inconsistency based on set criteria.

Andon System Manufacturer in Vadodara Gujarat India by Compucare | ID -  3450881


Benefits of Andon in Lean Manufacturing,

Ø  Visibility and transparency in production process

Ø  Alerts key decision makers about problems in productions line, so that immediate action can be taken

Ø  Reduces downtime to increase Overall Equipment Effectiveness and helps in quality improvement

Ø   Saves cost and time

Ø  Waste reduction

Ø  Enhanced value for customers because of quality products

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There are two best answers to this question. Sudhir Gayakwad and Sourabh Nandi are the joint winners. Congratulations to both. Mohamed Asif's answer is a must read to see how Andon is used in healthcare.


Also review the answer provided by Mr Venugopal R, Benchmark Six Sigma's in-house expert.

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