Mistake Proofi

How to Use Poka-Yoke To Avoid Business Mistakes? (With Examples)

Human error is usually caused by the failure to follow procedures correctly. A poka-yoke approach to quality control identifies mistakes prior to existence and then eliminates them from the start. Poka-yoke is a systematic method of designing processes to reduce the possibility of failure.

Adamou Boubacar Amadou

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The Insight 💡

Poka-Yoke is a systematic approach to error proofing. It provides an early warning so that minor errors are not perpetuated into big problems. The idea is to prevent errors before they occur. It can be used in various activities by starting with the end and working backward.

Poka-Yoke

The Art of MisTaKe PROOFING

If your business requires any form of quality control, you may have come across a technique known as Poka-Yoke.

In today’s guide, we’ll help you understand what poka-yoke is and why it matters in the modern business environment.

What is Poka-Yoke?

A Japanese technique for quality control, poka-yoke, was developed by Shigeo Shingo — a former Toyota engineer.

Poka-yoke translates into “mistake-proofing,” and its ultimate goal is to prevent defects in the manufacturing process resulting from human error. This technique ensures that the right conditions exist beforehand whenever a step is to be executed in a process.

This means that poka-yoke is more of a preventative type of quality control because the errors are detected and resolved before they even take place.

● A great example of applying the poka-yoke technique in the manufacturing industry is the SIM card slots featured in cell phones. The design of these slots allows the user to insert their SIM cards only in the correct way.

It eliminates any chance for human error while inserting a SIM card into a cell phone. As such, poka-yoke makes this design mistake-proof.

How Does Poka-yoke Work?

Keys and Padlock

The purpose of poka-yoke is to prevent mistakes before they happen. However, not all processes allow the detection of errors ahead of time, in which case the poka-yoke technique will aim to remove errors as early as possible in the process.

The poka-yoke technique is an integral portion of the manufacturing process at Toyota. The great thing about poka-yoke is that it can be applied to any other industry or situation where human error is a potential concern.

● A well-known example of the effect of poka-yoke is in the design of manual automobiles where the driver must activate the clutch before they can change gears. This keeps the car from unintentionally moving while reducing the wear on its motor and gearbox.

● You can find another example in washing machines, food processors, or dishwashers that don’t operate unless the door is closed correctly to prevent unwanted flooding.

The Principles of The Poka-yoke Technique

The poka-yoke technique is based on 6 principles to decrease the chances of process errors efficiently. In order of efficacy, these principles are:

Elimination

This is the preferred solution where a process or product is redesigned to make a particular step no longer necessary.

Prevention

This is where a process, service, or product is engineered so that it’s practically impossible for a person to make a mistake.

Replacement

This is to substitute one process with another more reliable approach to reduce an error.

Facilitation

This is where some techniques are adopted to make it easier to perform a specific task. Often, facilitation involves combining multiple steps.

Detection

This is where an error is identified before further steps in the process are started. This way, the mistake is corrected without causing more damage to the personnel or equipment.

Mitigation

This is where the consequences of errors are minimized without necessarily fixing them, which is the least preferable solution.

Advantages of Poka-Yoke for Businesses

It’s obvious so far that preventing errors is one of the benefits of poka-yoke. But what advantages does this technique offer businesses?

Better Profitability

Errors in production lines can lead to shutdowns or expensive personnel injuries, both of which decrease profitability. Applying poka-yoke principles can prevent or at least minimize the occurrence of issues, which improves the business’s profitability.

● For example, hotels where guests are required to use their keycards if they want to activate their room’s electricity. This solves the problem of guests usually not bothering to turn off the lights after leaving their rooms, meanwhile saving money that’s otherwise wasted on unnecessary electricity consumption.

Better Productivity

By stopping errors before they happen, you can increase your business’s productivity.

● For example, when online forms only allow submission after all fields are filled out before, the occurrence of mistakes in forms is reduced (whether because of missing or incomplete information). This saves the company money and time that would otherwise be spent on chasing up customers for the needed details.

Streamlining Small but Error-prone Processes

Last but not least, poka-yoke can help streamline small tasks that are prone to errors. This kind of task is especially common in certain industries such as hospitality and service.

● For example, cashier errors when it comes to calculating change are individually minor but can be pretty costly for a business in the long run. Here, the poka-yoke technique has automated the process and provided digital verification interfaces where automation isn’t an option.

Bottom Line

The poka-yoke technique aims to prevent errors before they take place. Adopting the principles of poka-yoke in business results in improved profitability, productivity, and streamlined error-prone tasks.

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Adamou Boubacar Amadou Twitter

I write content at the intersection of business and technology to help you learn while I do the same. I currently work in marketing in the media industry. Great Content + SEO = 🚀