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Smart Andon Systems: Challenges and Benefits in Lean Manufacturing

An Andon system is a lean manufacturing tool that was pioneered by Toyota as part of the Toyota Production System. The system can notify managerial, maintenance, and other workers of a quality or processing problem or yet better provide operation related insights. This tool can provide many benefits including increased visibility and transparency in the production process, increased productivity and efficiency, reduced waste, increased agility, and long term improvements to the manufacturing process. The modern Andon systems go beyond showing the status and are better connected and more accessible using the new data driven technologies.

Wait, I think we have Andon!

Most of us think of Andon as a three-color stack light that sits on top of some of our machine tools. These stack lights show the status of each machine, but since these data are not collected and processed in most cases, they do not typically produce any insight beyond simple metrics like uptime of the machine within each machine. Collecting and integrating such operation status data from each process could produce valuable information if it is applied to a production system intentionally. It can produce not previously available insights for decision makers and provide immediate notification using modern tools to the plant floor personnel to react quickly and make a agile production system.

What are the challenges in deploying a complete solution?

Here we have listed four challenges in generating the data and turning them into useful information:

  • Most shops have several machines that either do not produce status signal or produce different signals since they come from different manufacturers.

  • There are many processes such as manual assembly steps that do not produce a meaningful status signal.

  • The existing signals (data) is not collected and stored in a central database that be processed into useful information.

  • The collected data is not processed or presented in the right format to the right people.

Which Andon system is right for me?

Techam Solutions have assisted customers in selection and implementation of systems that meets their needs and adds real value to their operations according to advanced lean manufacturing principals. As there are many tools in the lean toolbox, choosing the right tool for each manufacturing operation is very important and critical for successful implementation and delivering sustainable value.

There are many commercially available solutions that can enable a typical shop to take advantage of such systems, which makes selection of the right solution a challenge. Of course there are pros and cons to each system in the market. As an example, the solution offered by Werma provides a simple, wireless-based retrofit solution for signaling and analyzing the data that offers a PC installed software for analyzing the data, but it does not offer collaboration in the cloud. This eliminates recurring subscription costs, but if this aspect is important for a customer, then other solutions should be sought.

Smart Andon systems have a key role in Industry 4.0 thinking

Data is at the heart of Industry 4.0 and the easier and more automatically we can produce and collect the correct data, the more we have advanced ourselves towards the digital transformation. Implementing simple systems like this and collecting and recoding the relevant data in a modern data warehouse could be the right approach for small to medium size organizations to gradually go through the digital transformation and prepare for Industry 4.0.

The data generated by Smart Andon Systems can also be fed into modern business intelligence tools to generate valuable business insights using artificial intelligence and other modern data mining tools. Read our article on Modern Business Intelligence Tools for more information.



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