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Poka-yoke - short version

An inexpensive robust device that eliminates the possibility of a defect by alerting the operator that an error has occurred.

Poka-yoke - long version

Poka-yoke (ポカヨケ?) (IPA: [poka joke]) is a Japanese term that means "fail-safing" or "mistake-proofing".

Poka-yoke can be implemented at any step of a manufacturing process where something can go wrong or an error can be made. For example, a jig that holds pieces for processing might be modified to only allow pieces to be held in the correct orientation, or a digital counter might track the number of spot welds on each piece to ensure that the worker executes the correct number of welds.

Shigeo Shingo recognized three types of poka-yoke for detecting and preventing errors in a mass production system:

1. The contact method identifies product defects by testing the product's shape, size, color, or other physical attributes.
2. The fixed-value (or constant number) method alerts the operator if a certain number of movements are not made.
3. The motion-step (or sequence) method determines whether the prescribed steps of the process have been followed.
Either the operator is alerted when a mistake is about to be made, or the poka-yoke device actually prevents the mistake from being made. In Shingo's lexicon, the former implementation would be called a warning poka-yoke, while the latter would be referred to as a control poka-yoke.

Shingo argued that errors are inevitable in any manufacturing process, but that if appropriate poka-yokes are implemented, then mistakes can be caught quickly and prevented from resulting in defects. By eliminating defects at the source, the cost of mistakes within a company is reduced.


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