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What’s Toyota’s Jidoka (Autonomation)?

What is Toyota Jidoka (Autonomation)?
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What's Toyota's Jidoka (Autonomation...

This article introduces about the origin of Jidoka and Andon that was evolved from Jidoka.  It also will explain the difference between Autonomation and Automation and the substance of Autonomation.

(Duration: 5:47)

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The Origin of Jidoka (Autonomation)

Hi, this is Mike Negami, Lean Sigma Black Belt.

Just-In-Time is more well-known, but Autonomation is the two-pillar foundation in Toyota Production System along with Just-In-Time. I would like you to understand why Autonomation is so important today.

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It’s a good idea to think about the origin of Autonomation. Before making automobiles about 100 years ago, Toyota was making automatic looms that knitted yarn and made cloth automatically.

With ‘Automation’, machines made the manufacturing process more efficient and faster than before.
However, there was a big problem. When a string was cut or some abnormality occurred, machines used to keep working and tended to produce a lot of defects.

Then, Toyota invented the first machine in history with a device that detected those abnormalities and stopped itself automatically. This image below is a picture of that machine. This is the original point of ‘Autonomation’.

Type-G Toyota Automatic Loom, the Origin of Jidoka

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The difference between Autonomation and Automation

Toyota’s official website says this:

What's Jidoka (Autonomation)

“Autonomation is applied to a machine with a built-in device for making judgments. On the other hand, Automation is simply applied to a machine that moves on its own. Autonomation refers to ‘Automation with a human touch’, which gives machines the ability of human operators who usually manage and supervise machines.”

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In other words, Automation is a mechanism that makes machines work automatically, while Autonomation is a mechanism with a human touch that makes machines stop automatically when a problem occurs.

When a problem occurs, the machine will stop itself. It’s not only convenient, but it’s also possible for one operator to operate multiple machines, so productivity dramatically increases.

Jidoka’s Evolved Form, ‘Andon’

However, even though many recent machines have such a function, the Toyota Production System went further. Presently, they’ve expanded the concept of Autonomation to include using a tool called ‘Andon’.

Toyota’s factories are equipped with electronic signage like the photo below. They call this ‘Andon’. In addition to stopping all lines when an abnormality occurs in a machine, you can understand where and what happened according to the signage.

Visual Management Using Andon

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Also, each worker’s location has an Andon button and they can notify the Andon system if an abnormality occurred.

It may no be well-known, the substance of Jidoka.

The substance of Autonomation is from the following. First, a machine detects an abnormality and informs people with the signage board. The operation line would not stop right away.  When the abnormality is out of the range of standard operating procedures, the line will stop.

Since the operation line has stopped, they can’t ignore it.  The line managers and supervisors come to the incident location, and analyze its root cause and remove the problem. They consider measures to prevent recurrence, and incorporate those and revise the standard operating procedure.

The substance of Jidoka

Since the line stopped, defective parts wouldn’t go on to the following process and that reduces the number of defective products. By repeating this cycle, you can improve your people’s awareness “to create quality in my process”.  Preventive measures are steadily standardized, and the quality of processes and products will increase steadily. Eventually your workers will develop steadily.

The benefits of Jidoka

It’s a wonderful concept and system, isn’t it? Unfortunately, however, we cannot implement this Autonomation in all companies, even in manufacturing operations.  If a high-defect-rate operation used this system, their line would stop too often and be counterproductive. First, they have to decrease their defect rate by standardizing their operations.

What can we, in service operations, do with this Autonomation? We can learn the main concept of Autonomation: don’t ignore abnormality and solve any problems even by stopping your process, and establish a system to make your people always think of and conduct prevention measures.  Then you can improve your operations continuously.

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