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Andon: Lean Superhero

Are You Faster Than the Speed of Light?

I had a rather random thought this morning. It would not be much fun to work with a superhero, especially one with super-speed. Imagine the conversation with your boss.

“Jeff, you’ve been doing OK, but you just can’t seem to keep up with the day shift. Superman and the Flash always seem to get more work done than you do…” (For those of you who never read a comic book, they both get around pretty quick.)

Even though you can’t run faster than them, there’s still an easy way to get a message out in a hurry. In nearly every facility I consulted at, there always seems to be someone holed up in a corner, well off the beaten path. Whenever he needs something, he has to stop working, and spend the time going out to find whoever he needs to get.

In most cases, thanks to our good friend Mr. Pareto, it is one of just a couple problems. The worker might need someone to cover for a break, or get more material, or pick up completed work. (Let’s not get into a discussion of root causes here-I’m just saying these are common reasons, not necessarily good ones…)

So, it becomes a relatively simple task to set up a few color coded signalsandonsthat that light up in a remote location. The person back in the cave can flip a switch or press a button and let the main work area know that he needs something. Red and yellow lights probably have a standardized use in your facility, but purple, blue, pink, orange, mauve-lots of other colors exist that can each have a specific meaning applied to it.

I’ve done this before, and have even seen a similar system used in a dental facility to signal hygenists that their next patient had arrived. There are some limitations to this method, but for non-urgent messages, it works pretty well. Think of all the time saved from walking out to get help.

Of course, super-speed would be a lot more fun.


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