An Introduction To Error Proofing

One of the common tools often used within lean is that of Error proofing. The concept of error proofing is one that is vital to any business but particularly those that manufacture. Error proofing is simply making sure that any product supplied is defect free so time and money is saved through not having to deal with defective products and your customers are happy because they receive quality assured products that are not defective.

What Causes Errors?

Most errors in business are caused by some form of human error. Often those producing items may not even be aware that they are producing faulty goods or defective items, or they may be aware, but fail to take any action.

The Cost Of Errors

Although there may be an attitude in a business that the ‘odd’ defective item is not important, this can set an adverse business culture. Inspecting goods to check for faults can be seen as time consuming and time has a close bond with cost. However the ‘odd’ defective item still remains unacceptable as it results in wasted material, effort and cost.

In addition, each time a customer or client receives a faulty item they lose a little bit of faith in your company and may even start to seek out other suppliers with more consistent quality.

There can be occasions where faulty goods can actually cause massive disruption, because production can be held up or there may be technical difficulties caused by having to rework the poor quality goods, so the importance of error proofing cannot be over emphasised.

How Can Error Proofing Be Applied?

Error proofing, is introducing processes that reduce or eradicate errors within a production line, ideally it needs to be applied at every stage of production.

Some upfront work needs to be done first of all, this usually means assessing stages in the production process, analyzing the errors that are occurring – and then brainstorming solutions. This means that everyone involved in the project has to be aware of defects, know the actions required to avoid defects and know exactly what action to take when they see any defect.

The actual error proofing might take a variety of guises from tools, color coding materials or in some cases new machines or assembly equipment.

This is obviously heavily dependent on good training as well as equipping all those involved with the confidence to take action when they see an error or defect.

Management must also take a key role in ensuring that error proofing is implemented successfully. This may involve spot inspections as well as ensuring that customer feedback is properly analysed to ensure that any errors have indeed been rectified prior to goods leaving the production line.

Examples of Error Proofing

Error proofing can take various forms. Sometimes a warning light or a buzzer will sound if a part has not been assembled correctly. Sometimes parts will be designed so that they will not join together if they are not correctly aligned. Some error proofing techniques even prevent machinery from operating if the operator is not correctly positioned at their workstation.

So various techniques can be implemented to ensure that errors are eliminated from the production lines or in any are where goods are being produced.

However, error proofing or Poka Yoke as it is sometimes called is really dependent on all of those involved in any kind of production being fully aware and committed to the eradication of errors.

In essence this boils down to the empowerment of all staff and ensuring that they take ownership of errors and full responsibility for ensuring that they do not happen.

Although most error proofing techniques and applications can be labour intensive, in the first instance, after a while the cost of their implementation decreases and over time they start to save companies a great deal of money because the cost of dealing with and re-processing defective goods is significantly reduced. Thus error proofing will actually save companies a lot of money and ensure that repeat business is generated through the production of goods that are virtually defect free!

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