Think Poka-Yoke

By : Siti Hartinah Ahmah

Business Process Improvement Consultant/ Lean Sigma Trainer/Process Engineering Professional

Have we imagined we were in the situation of dealing with too many defects all the time? Or have we experienced missing our stuff or data? People with a lean philosophy mindset always think to attain something better to prevent those issues. They are result-oriented without ignoring the process-wise.

Who is familiar with Poka-Yoke? It is Japanese words, which consist of the words poka and yoke. A ‘poka’ is an unintended mistake, and ‘yoke’ means to prevent, poka-yoke stands for mistake-proofing. Poka-yoke is one of the lean tools which was developed as an essential component of the Toyota Production System (TPS), hence the tool can prove useful not only in any industry but also in our daily lives.

We sometimes do not realize that we deal with poka-yoke in our daily lives. People have been familiar with the design shape of various keys, yes they are designed to eliminate error before it happens, to detect the error at the source and it is very important as it relates to safety. It develops from the old design by the ancient Egyptian pin tumbler to an automatic sensor of a door. Poka-yoke system also plays a role in a 3 seconds F1 quick change over, integrated information of global e-commerce system, not to mention a sophisticated system of a rocket. It is tailoring with other Lean tools such as SOP, visual management, and Jidoka or autonomous system. In the end, poka-yoke is essential for making our lives safer, better, and faster and not to mention how it’s worth to gain a saving cost as it successfully prevents defective parts. Poka-yoke will always relate to customer satisfaction as it is designed from the perspective of users, to satisfy the customers. A more advanced method needs a solid framework to unite the development for the further-sophisticated design of poka-yoke. However, everything superior will always be originated from something small and simple.

Pictures: Example of simple poka-yoke of a plastic bag

The above picture is a very simple poka-yoke in our existing thin plastic bag. Some countries still have not phased out this plastic. It is needed to do the phase-out as plastic is still never fully degraded (anyway, it is still suggested for people to bring their shopping bags). But they optimize the plastic bag design by making it a bio-degradable, very thin sheet or other design which are purposed to make it less consumed for minimizing environmental impact. So instead of creating waste, the existing shopping plastic bag is designed to ease the shoppers for not throwing away just because it is frustrating to load the fruits. The thin plastic has textured dots and an offset width of one side of each handles which leads to only one-piece consumption instead of taking more plastics then throwing them into the waste container during shopping. Voice of customers can initiate the design of poka-yoke system, at the end it should satisfy the customer.
In general, the benefit of having a poka-yoke system in our daily lives and works are listed as:

  1. It can detect mistake while it occurs
  2. It eliminates error before it occurs
  3. It spends less time than without its existence or it unburdens somebody’s task or activity
  4. It promotes an improvement mindset, from detection to prevention, for further creativity and innovation
  5. It reduces cost as it contributes to reduced or defects elimination
  6. It increases the customer satisfaction level

And will have more and more benefit from a poka-yoke system.
Let us contribute based on any of our expertise, share our knowledge. It is not likely everybody will have the same thought as the aerospace engineering team, say a rocket science (even though lean six sigma concept has been applied in this high precision industry for advanced improvements and innovations), just think about an improved process all the time, start with a simple thing in mind to make our lives easier and more efficient. So, what is your favorite poka-yoke?

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