027: Poka Yoke – The Key To Mistake Proofing

027: Poka Yoke – The Key To Mistake Proofing

Last week we talked about how asking more questions and getting outsider perspectives can help you find communication issues in your processes or workflows.

Today, we’re going to talk about another tip that is equally helpful.

Mistake proofing.

Whereas last week was about communication gaps or opportunities for instructions to be misinterpreted, today is about putting features in place to make it impossible (or seemingly impossible… people ARE creative after all) to do a step wrong.

In the Lean Manufacturing world there is a term for this: Poka Yoke.

Like with a lot of Lean Manufacturing terms (kanban, kaizen, gemba), it is a Japanese term born out of manufacturing techniques they developed years ago.

Even so, I like it because it’s fun to say. In fact, I’m going to say it again. Poka Yoke.

OK, so what does it mean exactly.

To Poka Yoke or mistake proof something is to basically look at any way that it could be done wrong.

Per our conversation last week, sometimes that can happen because the instructions aren’t defined clearly enough.

But if there is a physical step that must take place, Poka Yoke can look like adding something in to make sure that an item is oriented correctly.

In my realm in manufacturing, we see this all the time. If there is a part being put into a die (which is basically blocks of metal that will cut or form the part), if the part is symmetrical or there is otherwise a chance for it to be misoriented, we will try to add something to the die, the part or both to make sure that it can’t be put in wrong.

Another benefit of Poka Yoke, honestly, is efficiency.

Poka Yoke can allow you to take some mental work out of the equation and streamline your processes.

Imagine picking up a block and placing into a slot. It might be simple, but what if the block has to be oriented a certain way each time?

If, every time you pick up a new one and place it in, you have to look at it closely and orient it, you might be adding a ton of time over the course of a shift.

But what if you could add a feature to the block or the slot that would make it both impossible to put in wrong and also easier to identify when you picked it up. Then, you could grab it, know which way it goes without even looking and place it through.

As you look at your own business, I’m sure you already have a ton of Poka Yoke items in place, but you’ve maybe just never thought of them in this way.

But as you find errors happening or mistakes popping up, that’s a great first place to invest some time and see if you can add some mistake proofing into the mix.

Thanks for listening to today’s episode. I’d love to know what you find out about your mistake proofing. You can shoot me an email at shawn@shawnwashburn.com.   Can’t wait to be back with you tomorrow.   I’d love to connect: website / LinkedIn / Facebook / Instagram / Twitter