ANDON: a visual control device

ANDON: a visual control device


Visual indicators, displays and controls used throughout manufacturing plants to improve communication of information.


The term “Andon” comes from an old Japanese word for paper lantern.  An everyday example of an andon is the warning light on your car’s dashboard that indicates when the gas tank is getting close to empty.

An Andon system is one of the principal elements of the Jidoka quality control  method pioneered by Toyota as part of the Toyota Production System and therefore now part of the Lean approach.

Why Andon?

There may be a reverse ‘Boy Who Cried Wolf’ condition. What happens if a worker pulls the andon cord to signal a need for help, and nobody ever comes to the rescue? The employee stops wasting his time pulling that andon cord! And if the cord is not pulled, the leadership team misses out on the opportunity to permanently fix the problem. Plus, the lack of early warning means that there will likely be more frequent line stops.

Leader should always ensure that there is a response when required. Make the andons a source of information for you to drive continuous improvement.

Andon boards has not only helped in reduction of “work in progress” or lag time between cycles but has also helped organizations not to rely on white boards, clip boards and word of mouth and even emails and intranet as a communication tool.

It also helps organizations to better define the role of employees on the gemba and to address questions like:

  1. What does Normal Operation mean?
  2. When should operator call for help? Neither too early nor too late.
  3. When should an operator stop the line?
  4. Where the help is required? Etc…..

 Benefits of using Andon system

  • Makes the state and condition of manufacturing processes easily accessible and very clear – to everyone.
  • It helps the industry guide, monitor and ensure productivity.
  • Andon boards double as early warning devices
  • Andon boards can be use in manufacturing, inventory management, storage, receiving, picking and shipping.

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