A Comprehensive Guide to Andon: An Effective System in Lean Manufacturing

Boost productivity with this guide to Andon Lights in Lean Manufacturing. Click here to discover key strategies for a flawless operation.

Last Updated on January 21, 2024 by Ossian Muscad

Andon, a key component in Lean manufacturing, is a visual management tool that highlights operational or quality issues in real time, enabling immediate action and resolution. “Andon” is derived from a Japanese word meaning ‘lantern,’ symbolizing its role as a light or beacon within a lean manufacturing environment.

The tool typically uses a system of indicator lights, known as “Andon lights,” positioned conspicuously on the production floor. When an issue arises, the lights are triggered, prompting immediate attention and corrective action.

The Andon system acts as the manufacturing process’s heartbeat, reflecting its health and functioning at any moment. This article will discuss Andon lights in manufacturing as a fascinating Lean tool, exploring its origins, functions, and the benefits it offers to modern manufacturing.


What is Andon?

Andon in Lean manufacturing is a real-time visual alert system, often associated with a series of overhead lights, that indicates the status of production operations on the factory floor. Originating from the Japanese word for ‘lantern,’ the Andon system illuminates a problem the moment it occurs, allowing immediate rectification.

In a broader context, Andon is more than just an alert system; it is a philosophy that empowers employees to take ownership of process quality and efficiency. Workers can pause production when they detect an anomaly by pulling the Andon cord or pressing the Andon button, signaling that assistance is needed.

This proactive approach helps mitigate potential defects, reduce waste, and improve overall productivity, embodying the core principles of Lean manufacturing.


How Does Andon Work?

One of the key advantages of Andon in Lean manufacturing is its ability to provide an immediate and unambiguous visual alert, allowing for prompt corrective action. Its functionality can be categorized into three main components: the Andon cord, the Andon light, and the Andon board.

Andon Cord

The Andon cord is an immediate alert mechanism within the Lean production system. When workers identify a defect or other issue that could disrupt the production process or compromise product quality, they pull the Andon cord. This action triggers an alert, usually by lighting up the Andon board and sounding an alarm, which immediately signals the need for attention and corrective action.

The philosophy behind the Andon cord is to empower each worker to halt production in the face of a problem, ensuring quality standards and minimizing waste. In some cases, the Andon cord is replaced with an Andon button, which serves a similar function but with electronic triggering.

Andon Light

The Andon light is a visual management tool that uses various colors to indicate production status. The Andon light changes color once the cord or button is triggered, signaling different issues. While other types of indicators can be used, it is common to use the following color scheme:

  • Green: This signifies that operations are running smoothly without any issues.
  • Yellow: The yellow light indicates a warning. It is used when a minor issue has been detected that does not necessarily require a halt in production but needs to be addressed to prevent potential disruption.
  • Red: A red light is a clear signal of a critical problem that requires immediate attention. This could mean a major defect in the product or a serious malfunction in the production process, necessitating a halt in operations until the issue is resolved.

Andon Board

The Andon board is a visual display, often electronic, that provides a real-time overview of the production process. Not only does it display the status signaled by the Andon lights, but it can also provide details about the specific issue, such as its location and nature.

This enables supervisors and other relevant personnel to quickly understand and address the problem, contributing to the efficiency and effectiveness of the response. At the same time, the Andon board also serves as a continuous monitoring tool that highlights potential areas of improvement to optimize production processes further.


Example of Andon

One of the most compelling examples of Andon use can be seen in the Toyota Production System (TPS), which is often regarded as the birthplace of the Andon system. Toyota uses Andon as a part of their commitment to quality and continuous improvement, two deeply ingrained principles in their corporate culture.

Let’s consider a typical scenario on a Toyota assembly line. A worker notices an issue with a component — perhaps a part isn’t fitting together as it should. The worker pulls the Andon cord, immediately illuminating the Andon lights and triggering an alert on the Andon board. The production line stops, and a team leader promptly arrives to investigate the issue.

Together, the team leader and the worker who pulled the cord decide whether the issue can be resolved on the spot or if more in-depth analysis is required. If a simple fix is possible, the issue is quickly rectified, and production resumes. If not, the team leader will decide whether the issue is severe enough to stop production until a solution is found.

What sets Toyota apart is the respect and trust given to the workers in this process. The power to halt an entire production line signifies the value placed on each worker’s ability to assess and respond to quality issues, reinforcing a strong culture of ownership and responsibility. The Andon system at Toyota is not merely a tool but a symbol of their commitment to quality, lean manufacturing, and respect for people.


Benefits of Andon

Adopting Andon in Lean manufacturing has tangible benefits that can revolutionize the production process, making it more efficient, effective, and quality-oriented. By illuminating real-time problems and empowering workers to address them promptly, Andon offers a strategic approach to continuous improvement. Below, we delve into some key benefits of implementing an Andon system in a Lean manufacturing environment.

Empower Frontline Workers

In a traditional production setting, the hierarchy often creates a disconnect between frontline workers and decision-makers. However, by instigating the Andon system, workers on the shop floor are empowered to stop the production line when they identify a potential issue. This gives them an active role in ensuring quality and fosters a sense of ownership and responsibility among the workforce.

Accelerate Teamwork

Andon systems encourage collaboration by emphasizing the collective responsibility of maintaining production quality. When the Andon light is triggered, it is not just an individual’s task to solve the problem. Instead, it acts as a call for a team response, fostering a culture of teamwork and collective problem-solving. As a result, the resolution process is faster and more efficient.

Maximize Raw Materials

Waste reduction is a fundamental principle of Lean manufacturing. By alerting the need for immediate action when a defect or issue arises, the Andon system helps minimize raw materials’ wastage, thereby maximizing their usage and improving efficiency. By halting production until the problem is resolved, Andon ensures that no defective products leave the production line, further minimizing waste and enhancing customer satisfaction.

Reduce Defective Items

Andon’s real-time alert system enables immediate detection and rectification of defects, substantially reducing the number of defective items produced. This leads to less rework and waste, saving time and resources. As a result, the production process becomes more efficient and cost-effective. In addition, reducing defects also contributes to higher customer satisfaction and a stronger brand reputation.

Standardize Product Quality

Andon systems play a crucial role in standardizing quality. Since any deviations that could affect the product’s quality are instantly flagged, this ensures that every product meets the desired quality standards consistently. By creating an environment of continuous monitoring and improvement, Andon contributes to establishing a quality-focused culture in the organization.

Improve Customer Satisfaction

By reducing defects and standardizing product quality, the Andon system indirectly enhances customer satisfaction. Customers receive reliable and high-quality products, leading to improved trust and satisfaction. By empowering workers to take immediate action in case of issues, Andon also ensures timely delivery, contributing to meeting customer demands and expectations.

Enhance Value to End Users

The culmination of all these benefits results in a product that offers superior value to the end-user. By ensuring efficiency, quality, and consistency, Andon contributes to creating products that meet and exceed customer expectations, enhancing the value offered to the end user. It helps to maintain a strong competitive edge in the market and attract more customers.


Andon Today

Andon continues to be a significant tool for Lean production systems globally. Advancements in technology have transformed Andon into multi-faceted, smart systems that extend beyond traditional light signals. Today’s Andon systems can incorporate various visual, audible, and even textual alerts, providing a more comprehensive and interactive communication platform.

Furthermore, the integration of Andon systems with advanced data analytics tools is enhancing the speed and quality of decision-making in the manufacturing process. Real-time data collected from the Andon system can be analyzed to identify patterns, predict potential issues, and make proactive improvements.

In addition to its role on the manufacturing floor, the philosophy of Andon — empowering employees to signal problems and halt production if necessary — is being applied in various other industries, such as healthcare and IT, showcasing its versatility and effectiveness in fostering a culture of continuous improvement and respect for people. 

As Lean Manufacturing continues to evolve and adapt to the digital age, Andon’s role remains crucial. It is a testament to the enduring power of simple, effective tools to drive quality, efficiency, and a culture of continuous improvement.


How to Implement Andon In Your Manufacturing Operation

Implementing an Andon system in your manufacturing operation is a strategic move towards enhancing efficiency, reducing defects, and fostering a culture of continuous improvement. This process involves several steps that, when executed correctly, can revolutionize your production line and lead to substantial benefits. Here is a comprehensive step-by-step guide to implementing an Andon system in your manufacturing operation.

Step 1: Understand Andon

The first step towards implementing an Andon system is to fully understand what it is and how it can benefit your operation. Use this article as a stepping stone. Then, research more about Andon. Study examples of using it in other manufacturing environments, and identify how it aligns with your operational goals and objectives.

Step 2: Involve Your Team

Your team plays a crucial role in successfully implementing an Andon system. Involve them in the process, training them about Andon, its uses, and their role. Foster an environment where everyone feels empowered to engage with the system. By getting everyone on board, you will lay the foundation for a successful implementation while fostering a culture of teamwork and collective problem-solving.

Step 3: Define Your Andon Signals

Once your team understands Andon, the next step is to define your Andon signals. Establish what each Andon light color represents and ensure everyone understands what each signal means. You can customize and adjust these signals based on your needs and operation. Whatever signals you choose, ensure they are easily understandable and visible to all team members.

Step 4: Establish a Response System

After defining your Andon signals, establish a response system. Determine who will respond to each signal type, how, and how quickly they are expected to respond. The goal is to ensure quick and effective responses to any issue. That way, problems can be addressed promptly, preventing them from escalating and disrupting production.

Step 5: Test the System

With all the groundwork done, it’s time to test your Andon system. Run simulations to ensure everything works as expected and to give your team a chance to practice their response. Use this testing phase to iron out any kinks and make necessary adjustments. Once you are satisfied with the results, you can move on to the final step.

Step 6: Implement Your Andon System

Once testing is complete and you’re satisfied with the system, it’s time to implement it. Introduce the system gradually, allowing your team time to adapt. Regularly review the system to ensure it’s working effectively and make any necessary changes. Through this continuous improvement process, you can leverage Andon to its full potential and reap its numerous benefits.

Step 7: Continuous Improvement

Remember, Andon’s goal is continuous improvement. Regularly review the system’s performance and effectiveness, seeking feedback from your team and making adjustments as necessary. Also, encourage your team to continuously look for ways to improve the system and make suggestions. With time and consistent effort, your Andon system can substantially improve your production process.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1: Who can activate the Andon system in a manufacturing setting?

In a Lean Manufacturing environment, any employee can activate the Andon system if they notice a problem that could affect the quality of the product or the efficiency of the process. This reflects the Lean principle of empowering workers and fostering a proactive culture of problem-solving.

Q2: How does Andon impact the overall costs of production?

By allowing for swift identification and resolution of issues, Andon can significantly reduce the overall costs of production. It reduces the likelihood of producing defective products, thereby reducing waste. It also minimizes downtime by addressing issues quickly, leading to more efficient operations.

Q3: How can one measure the effectiveness of an Andon system?

The effectiveness of an Andon system can be measured by its impact on key performance indicators (KPIs). These KPIs include production downtime, defect rates, and first-time quality. Improvements in these areas generally indicate a successful Andon system.

Q4: Can an Andon system be integrated with other Lean tools?

Yes, an Andon system can be seamlessly integrated with other Lean tools. For instance, it can be paired with Kaizen events to drive continuous improvement or used alongside 5S strategies for maintaining an organized and efficient workplace.

Q5: Is Andon applicable only in manufacturing?

While Andon originated in manufacturing, its visual management principles and employee empowerment can benefit various other sectors, including healthcare, IT, and services. In these contexts, Andon could involve different signals like alarms, notifications, or flags, according to the nature of the work and the type of issues encountered.

Q6: What is the role of leadership in implementing and maintaining an Andon system?

Leadership is critical in supporting the implementation and maintenance of an Andon system. They must provide resources, guide the process, and foster a culture of continuous improvement to ensure its long-term success. Additionally, leaders should regularly review the system’s performance and seek feedback from their team to make necessary adjustments and improvements. So, it is crucial for leaders to be actively involved and supportive in the Andon system’s implementation and maintenance.


Streamline Your Manufacturing Processes with DATAMYTE

DATAMYTE is a quality management platform with low-code capabilities. Our Digital Clipboard, in particular, is a low-code workflow automation software that features a workflow, checklist, and smart form builder. This tool lets you streamline manufacturing processes by providing real-time visibility into production data, automating manual tasks, and ensuring consistent quality throughout operations.

DATAMYTE also lets you conduct layered process audits, a high-frequency evaluation of critical process steps, focusing on areas with the highest failure risk or non-compliance. Conducting LPA with DATAMYTE lets you effectively identify and correct potential defects before they become major quality issues.

With DATAMYTE, you have an all-in-one solution for quality management and process improvement. Our platform integrates with various tools, including Andon systems, to help you achieve your Lean Manufacturing goals. Book a demo now to learn more.



Andon is an invaluable tool in Lean Manufacturing, offering real-time visual feedback about the production process and empowering employees to halt operations when they observe a potential problem. This system promotes proactive problem-solving and continuous improvement, leading to enhanced quality control and operational efficiency.

While it emerged from the manufacturing sector, its principles are universally applicable, providing benefits in sectors as diverse as healthcare, IT, and services. However, the effectiveness of an Andon system relies heavily on the commitment of leadership and the entire team, emphasizing the importance of fostering a culture that values transparency, collaboration, and constant improvement.

By understanding the concept, steps of implementation, and potential impact of an Andon system, organizations can significantly elevate their process efficiency and product quality, paving the way for sustainable success in their respective industries.



Related Articles: