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Lean Jidoka

The most common definition of jidoka is ‘autonomation.’ It is Japanese in origin, as are many specialized words in Lean. Jidoka traces its roots back to the early 1900’s at Toyota in Japan, then a textile manufacturing company. Sakichi Toyoda, an inventor and the founder of Toyota, developed a device that could detect broken threads in a loom and stop the machine from producing defective material. This concept, in which intelligence was added to machines, enabled companies to greatly increase the number of machines a single operator could run—with very little extra effort on the worker’s part. With jidoka, production becomes much easier for operators and much more profitable for companies.

The jidoka definition mentioned above (autonomation) is essentially automation with a human touch. But it has also come to mean more than that. It is about stopping whenever an abnormal condition is detected, fixing the defect, and then countermeasuring to prevent further occurrences. Many jidoka devices are combined with an andon light, or signaling device, to alert the operator of the abnormal condition. The purpose of jidoka is to separate people from machines, so an operator can do other tasks while the machine is running.

Companies often emulate Toyota and depict their production system as a “Lean house”. Jidoka is frequently depicted as one of its pillars. The other common pillar, JIT or just-in time manufacturing, and jidoka work together to create manufacturing excellence.

Many automated machines today have jidoka built in. They stop when something goes wrong—a bit breaks, for example. Most of us even have a good example of this in our homes. Washing machines shut themselves off if they get out of balance of if the lid is opened.

Human processes have much less of this ‘built-in’. They often have a hard time detecting the abnormality, and frequently attempt to fix it themselves, rather than draw attention to the problem.

Imagine if you had to stay near your washing machine to listen for the signs of imbalance. You’d be extremely limited in what you could do and your time would be wasted.

Jidoka reduces the need to be near a machine continuously.

The basic steps of jidoka:

  • The machine detects the abnormal condition.
  • The machine stops itself.
  • Implement a stopgap.
  • Resume production.
  • Identify the root cause.
  • Quickly implement a permanent fix.

The steps of jidoka require not only that you detect abnormal conditions and stop production, but also that you implement both a stopgap to get production moving again, and implement a permanent solution to prevent future occurrences. Taiichi Ohno is credited with the following quote: “No problem discovered when stopping the line should wait longer than tomorrow morning to be fixed.” Simply put, every problem you identify is an opportunity to improve. Don’t squander those opportunities through inactivity.


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Practical Guide Info


  • JRK says:

    Hi, Jeff
    This site is a treasure for Lean Practitioner. Great!
    The list of LEAN Tools clearly shows the connection between LEAN & TOC. Every waste is because of process problems and creates a constraint. Everybody now subordinates to elimination of this waste and flow improves leading us to our goal of “Making Money Now & In Future”.

  • The implementation of smooth flow exposes quality problems that already existed, and thus waste reduction naturally happens as a consequence. The advantage claimed for this approach is that it naturally takes a system-wide perspective, whereas a waste focus sometimes wrongly assumes this perspective…Thanks

    • Jeff Hajek says:

      I don’t think you can improve flow without a redcution in waste. Flow is the result of a focus on reducing waste, not the cause.

      I do agree that a systemic look at flow can show you the best areas of waste to focus on first, but it is still waste reduction that creates flow.

  • Sanjeev Goel says:

    Simple definition of JIDOKA is

    “Make Problem Visible”

    • Jeff Hajek says:


      Thanks for your comment. I should have stressed the importance of the visual control aspect of jidoka more.

      But I think that is only the first part of jidoka. It also has the very important aspect of stopping a process when there is a problem. It is more than just a warning light.


  • mahmoud badr says:

    whenever i check my e mails i found a new hint about lean , a nice snack easy to digest , very informative , many thanks to you .

  • We do like the concept of jidoka and we think also that in Lean Manufacturing is important reducing inefficiency and waste. However to achieve success with a lean process it requires reliable equipment, and this can only be achieved by addressing your maintenance.

  • Ramon Oropeza says:


    I have intersted abot jidoka method a jidoka implementation

    We need a Training abaut it,

    But we have a problem, we need te trainning in spanish because we want to involve the production people

    If you have a consulting to speake spanish, please contact me, and give me information.

    tks a lot

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