Engineering Management Blog

Engineering Management

The Engineering Management Blog is the place for conversation and discussion about engineering and project management, technology forecasting and planning, productivity tools, and safety and security. Here, you'll find everything from application ideas, to news and industry trends, to hot topics and cutting edge innovations.

Previous in Blog: Working Harder with Less   Next in Blog: Phishing and the Red Queen's Race
Close
Close
Close
7 comments

Toyota Pulls the Andon Cord

Posted January 27, 2010 4:17 PM by terrapin

Toyota Motor Corporation's recent decision to stop producing and selling many of its car models because of faulty gas pedals has captured national and world headlines. This is a very courageous and risky move on the part of Toyota management, but I feel it's the right decision.

Editor's Note: The author (terrapin) is Vice President of Content Operations at GlobalSpec, CR4's parent company. A student of the Toyota Production System, he blogs about Lean Manufacturing for CR4.

Toyota's decision was probably an easy one for them to make based upon the principles from the company's Lean Thinking culture. An important facet of Lean Thinking, which bases many of its tenets on the Toyota Production System, is to stop the line when a problem occurs.

Pulling the Andon Cord

As the web site for Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky Inc. (TMMK) explains, the term that is used is to "pull the Andon Cord". Specifically, "team members on the line are responsible for the parts they use. They are inspectors for their own work and that of co-workers. When a problem on any vehicle is spotted, any team member can pull a rope — called an andon cord — strung along the assembly line to halt production. Only when the problem is resolved is the line restarted. This process involves every team member in monitoring and checking the quality of every car produced"

Short Term Losses, Long Term Gains

According to an article about the Toyota recall by Dan Strumph of the Associated Press, "Toyota spokesman Mike Goss said most workers were expected to be at their jobs during the assembly line shutdown. Workers will receive additional training or work on improvements to their assembly processes. They can also take vacation or unpaid leave," Strumph said.

Toyota will most likely suffer some short term losses as a result of its decision, but in the long run the company will be even stronger. Toyota and other Lean Thinking companies tend to focus on long term success while forgoing short term profits.

Reply

Interested in this discussion?
You can "subscribe" to this discussion to be notified of new comments.
Click on the Subscribe menu at the top of the page.

Comments rated to be Good Answers:

These comments received enough positive ratings to make them "good answers".
Power-User
Popular Science - Weaponology - New Member Hobbies - Fishing - New Member

Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: US - NC
Posts: 317
Good Answers: 9
#1

Re: Toyota Pulls the Andon Cord

01/28/2010 7:17 AM
Reply
Guru

Join Date: Dec 2009
Posts: 582
Good Answers: 15
#2

Re: Toyota Pulls the Andon Cord

01/28/2010 9:32 AM

I'm very curious as to how often that cord gets pulled. What happens to the worker who pulls it?

What means does Toyota use to empower or educate their workers on what discrepancies warrant stopping the line?

__________________
Ignorance is no sin. Willful ignorance is unforgiveable.
Reply
3
Power-User

Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Troy, NY
Posts: 122
Good Answers: 4
#3
In reply to #2

Re: Toyota Pulls the Andon Cord

01/28/2010 9:48 AM

At a recent Lean training I attended, the instructor mentioned that the cord gets pulled hundreds of times a day in the plant of about 8000 workers. The workers are encouraged to pull the cord and are often congratulated when doing so. The line doesn't always stop, there is often time to remedy the situation while keeping the line moving.

One example he gave was when he was working on the line installing bolts underneath the wheel well the tool slipped and caused a scratch on the metal. His team leader came over and showed him how to hold the tool with both hands to prevent it from slipping in the future. Later at a team meeting, the other team members came over and congratulated him for pulling the Andon cord.

Reply Good Answer (Score 3)
Anonymous Poster
#4

Re: Toyota Pulls the Andon Cord

01/28/2010 9:54 AM

Calling a halt to production and addressing the problem was a gutsy thing to do. It shows that Toyota places customer welfare first and takes it very seriously. It is an action taken by engineers and supported by accountants/lawyers. I believe it to be a sincere demonstration of Corporate integrity and reponsibility. The only other car company thet would do this is Ford. Even the great Porsche let out crummy engines without taking responsibility and didn't fix it until they redesigned the engine. The problem was that people other than engineers made thier engine decsions for them and the company suffered for it. They have learned thier lesson and are back to excellence. I now rank Toyota, Ford and, Porsche as being worthy of trust because engineers are part of the decision process.

Reply
Guru
Engineering Fields - Electromechanical Engineering - Technical Services Manager Canada - Member - Army brat Popular Science - Cosmology - What is Time and what is Energy? Technical Fields - Architecture - Draftsperson Hobbies - RC Aircraft - New Member

Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: Clive, Alberta, Canada
Posts: 5898
Good Answers: 204
#5

Re: Toyota Pulls the Andon Cord

01/28/2010 1:05 PM

This is something smart. It saves money, market share, and time, in the final analysis.

"There's never time to do it right, but always time to do it over" is one principle that I see played out so often, this has become a mantra of mine.

I actually never heard of the andon cord, but it is simply brilliant. Kudos.

Reply
Guru

Join Date: Dec 2009
Posts: 582
Good Answers: 15
#6

Re: Toyota Pulls the Andon Cord

01/28/2010 1:11 PM

I suspect that in instituting this management system, some supervisor/exec had to call an all-hands meeting(s) to complain about how the andon cord wasn't being pulled nearly often enough. Too much time working in the competitive marketplace breeds a sensitivity to costs, budgets, ROI and all that other management crap, even among the low-level grunts.

It's too bad more manufacturers don't do this.

__________________
Ignorance is no sin. Willful ignorance is unforgiveable.
Reply
Guru
Australia - Member - New Member

Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: Australia
Posts: 2111
Good Answers: 249
#7

Re: Toyota Pulls the Andon Cord

01/28/2010 4:04 PM

Understanding "lean" and having seen Toyota's commitment first hand in Japan, I am surprised that it took so long for the lines to be stopped.

I am almost suspicious that the reason the reaction was so slow was more that the American plants are managed by people that don't yet understand and share the full implications of the Toyota Production System the way that it is understood at the parent company. Are the US plants managed by executives recruited from the other auto companies in the US where the focus and culture is different? (Please note that I've been to Detroit, Morraine and a few other plants over there and experienced the culture inside that industry.)

I have also witnessed the success of GM in their Australian plant implementing a similar andon process for a model launch that was in their own words "unbelievably succesful".

__________________
Just an Engineer from the land down under.
Reply
Reply to Blog Entry 7 comments
Interested in this discussion?
You can "subscribe" to this discussion to be notified of new comments.
Click on the Subscribe menu at the top of the page.

Comments rated to be Good Answers:

These comments received enough positive ratings to make them "good answers".
Copy to Clipboard

Users who posted comments:

Anonymous Poster (1); chrisg288 (1); CUTiger (1); Just an Engineer (1); Lynn.Wallace (2); terrapin (1)

Previous in Blog: Working Harder with Less   Next in Blog: Phishing and the Red Queen's Race

Advertisement