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People360 Goes Poka Yoke!

People360 Goes Poka Yoke!

The first time I heard the term “Poka yoke”, my thought was, is it a child’s game? Like Pokemon? Turns out I was 360 degree wrong! It is not a toy nor a game but a serious matter for a business which is aiming to improve its quality and productivity.

The term is Japanese in origin. It means mistake proofing or inadvertent error prevention. Simply said, it is “Zero Defects Operations by Mistake-Proofing the Process’’. It is a training recently attended by the young crop of managers of the company- two practicing engineers and a math whiz with IT focus. The company’s young blood shared their training’s to the staff in a meeting recently and these are what they have learned:

Errors costs the company not only money but also time in production. As an example, once a personnel makes an error in printing a certificate, it costs the company not only the paper and the printer ink but also loses time as an employee has to “use” time  to correct the error.

There are two general views on error. One view is that errors are inevitable. People always make mistakes. They are not careful enough. The other view is that errors can be eliminated. Any kind of mistake people makes can be reduced if not totally eliminated. As a company with a bias towards quality and productivity, the second point of view is more our cup of tea, so to speak.

To implement poka yoke, one common strategy is to look into the six process elements more commonly known as 6Ms of production: Man (people or personnel); Machines or the equipment, physical facilities, tools, etc.; Materials or the raw materials, components, supplies, packaging, etc.; Methods or the standards, procedures, guidelines, instructions, techniques, etc.; Measurement or the capturing , recording, summarizing of quantitative data generated by the process and Mother Nature or the environment or working condition under which the process operates.

A prime example is the airline industry. For the element of Man, airline pilots receive extensive trainings before they are fielded; the airplanes undergo regular maintenance and tests using ultrasonic thickness gauge (UTG) (machines); for Materials, body components are composed of tough materials. For Methods, flight patterns factor in emergency field landings in case of emergencies, and with Measurements, radar, radio frequencies are used. Also, flight altitudes differ- flights going to their destinations are allotted flight altitudes in odd numbers while those that are going back are assigned even numbers. For Mother Nature, airports are usually mostly located far from dense human habitation because of the noise generated during take offs. It is only when zoning change when the airport is already built that complaints may occur.

Of the Six M’s, human errors in the workplace are the most varied in types of which there are  eight. However, there are means to negate these kinds of error. Discussed below are these errors and some of the remedies to eliminate said errors.

1)  Errors due to forgetfulness which is when employees rely on recall to do the job. The use of checklists, reminders and alert systems are remedies to this kind of error.

2) Errors due to misunderstanding- employees misinterpret an instruction or standard. Remedies? Trainings, the standardization of work procedures and checking with the superiors in advance

3) Errors in identification – when an employee mistake one valve/switch for another. Remedies: clear signage’s/labels; and trainings/orientations

4) Errors made by amateurs – new workers may make unintentional mistakes due to lack of skills. Typical remedies are work standardization and skills building

5) Willful errors – employees attempt to do shortcuts in violation of established procedures. Remedies are education and experience

6) Inadvertent errors – employees make errors due to lack of attention. Remedies include discipline and work standardization

7) Errors due to slowness – employees make errors due to slowness in response resulting to more serious damages. Remedies are trainings, work standardization.

8) Errors due to lack of standards – when no standards are available, employees make which can go against customer satisfaction or affect company standing.

With the sharing of these ideas from the company’s young crop of managers, the journey to quality and productivity will surely be easier.



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