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Mistake Proofing or Poka Yoke

Aug 17, 2007
Thrashing out mistakes in manufacturing engineering was developed by the Japanese as a tool of mistake proofing that helps reduce waste in areas such as time, energy and resources. The idea stresses on producing zero defects as a part of a quality tool kit to prevent human errors. Although Poka Yoke is applied differently in different situations, the common thread that binds them all is its simplicity; it uses small tools at the point of the anticipated mistake generation itself.

Empowerment of Employees As A Tool of Poka Yoke Development

The beautiful part of mistake-proofing is the empowerment of employees to identify, suggest ways out and execute the plan to iron out the cause of the mistake at it's point of origination. In fact, anybody from a manager to a line employee can be allowed to complete mistake proofing planning. It applies to every other area, including commercial transactions, in the same way.

How Can Activities Be Mistake-Proofed?

Mistake proofing is simply managed by presence of mind. Sometimes it so happens that an employee notices a mistake in the way things are done in his section or line. Generally, exposure to multiple aspects such as work content and execution procedures let the employee think about ways of rectifying the mistake.

One who has noticed the mistake will come up with suggestions for eliminating the mistakes by rather simple methods. Empowered environments nurture enthusiasm in employees, which ultimately results in success.

Let's take different simple examples. Colgate Palmolive was losing its market share to a rival toothpaste producer and the people in their marketing department could hardly help reverse the trend, despite their best efforts. This was until an employee in the packing department suggested a rather 'simplistic' idea that ultimately has shown results. The employee suggested enlarging of the tubes' opening, which increased the amount of paste issued each time the consumers wanted to brush.

Where does mistake proofing figure into the equation in this instance? The mistake was not in the manufacturing, packing or quality of the product but in the way it was marketed. The marketing was centered around an emphasis on quality and not on the quantity the consumers should use, which was irrelevant in the absence of severe competition.

Mistake elimination need not have complex solutions that consume lot of time and resources. Simple solutions can sometimes be arrived at by those who work on the shop floor. Let us look into another example which significantly explains Poka Yoke. Take a small mistake in the assembling of pens, such as a forgotten spring for operating the writing tip by a button located on top of the pen. The assembly worker would not have forgotten if he was given all of the components in sets rather than each part like springs, refills etc separately.

The Simplicity Of Poka Yoke

Quite evidently, Poka Yoke is pretty simple. It does not involve spending huge sums of money, time and complex procedures. It employs making the best use of empowered human minds. If it is used on a continuous basis with the goal of eliminating many smaller mistakes, the results can be wonderful.
About the Author
Tony Jacowski is a quality analyst for The MBA Journal. Aveta Solution's Six Sigma Online offers online six sigma training and certification classes for lean six sigma, black belts, green belts, and yellow belts.
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