Andon (Japanese: アンドン or あんどん or 行灯) is a manufacturing term referring to a system to notify management, maintenance, and other workers of a quality or process problem. The centerpiece is a device incorporating signal lights to indicate which workstation has the problem. The alert can be activated manually by a worker using a pullcord or button, or may be activated automatically by the production equipment itself. The system may include a means to stop production so the issue can be corrected. Some modern alert systems incorporate audio alarms, text, or other displays.
An Andon System is one of the principal elements of the Jidoka quality-control method pioneered by Toyota as part of the Toyota Production System and therefore now part of the Lean approach. It gives the worker the ability, and moreover the empowerment, to stop production when a defect is found, and immediately call for assistance. Common reasons for manual activation of the Andon are part shortage, defect created or found, tool malfunction, or the existence of a safety problem. Work is stopped until a solution has been found. The alerts may be logged to a database so that they can be studied as part of a continuous-improvement program.
The system typically indicates where the alert was generated, and may also provide a description of the trouble. Modern Andon systems can include text, graphics, or audio elements. Audio alerts may be done with coded tones, music with different tunes corresponding to the various alerts, or pre-recorded verbal messages.
The concept/process of giving a non-management (production line) worker the authority to stop the production line because of a suspected quality issue is generally thought to have been pioneered by W. Edwards Deming. Many in Japan credit Deming as the inspiration for what has become known as the Japanese post-war economic miracle of 1950 to 1960, when Japan rose from the ashes of war to start Japan on the road to becoming the second largest economy in the world through processes founded on the ideas Deming taught:Better design of products to improve service
Higher level of uniform product quality
Improvement of product testing in the workplace and in research centers
Greater sales through side [global] markets
Usage of the word originated within Japanese manufacturing companies, and in English is a loanword from a Japanese word for a paper lantern.