By its definition, Jidoka is a widely adopted Lean method utilized in manufacturing and product development to safeguard the delivery of high-quality products and maintain the takt time. It is also known as autonomation and serves as a means to prevent the production of defective or low-quality products.

Jidoka relies on four fundamental principles to ensure the delivery of defect-free products:

  1. Identify any abnormalities or deviations.
  2. Stop the process to prevent further issues.
  3. Address and rectify the immediate problem.
  4. Investigate and resolve the root cause of the problem.

These four steps can be applied in various ways, tailored to different industries, and serve as a solid foundation for achieving continuous process improvement.

By implementing the concept of Jidoka, any member of your organization has the authority to halt the workflow upon detecting a problem that could compromise the product’s quality.

Jidoka is one of the two pillars that have contributed to Toyota’s success as an industry giant. However, it is often referred to as the “forgotten pillar” of the Toyota production system, as it receives relatively less attention compared to the JIT (Just-in-Time) system.

Origin of Jidoka

Jidoka was initially introduced in 1896 by Sakichi Toyoda, a Japanese inventor who later went on to establish the Toyota Motor Company. The concept was embodied in a simple device integrated into an automatic loom, which would stop the shuttle if the thread broke. This mechanism enabled the detection of thread breakage, prompting an immediate machine shutdown and signaling the existence of a problem to avoid producing defective goods. The operator responsible for operating the loom would then address and rectify the issue before resuming production.

This revolutionary innovation allowed a single operator to manage multiple machines simultaneously and significantly increased production capacity. The patent for this invention was eventually acquired by a UK company, providing crucial funding for the establishment of Toyota.

Implementing Jidoka in Knowledge Work

Applying Jidoka in knowledge work environments, such as software development, may appear more complex due to the diverse nature of work processes. However, it can still be effectively employed by considering the different stages of the workflow.

The first two steps of Jidoka can be automated, with the identification of abnormalities and the process interruption easily implemented through technology. However, addressing the immediate problem and resolving the root cause requires human intervention.

For instance, in software development, you can incorporate multiple rounds of automated code testing during the development process. These tests assess the quality of the features being developed and identify any issues without the need for manual testing of every functionality.

Upon identification of a problem, the team can pause further development and focus on rectifying the specific issues by investigating the root cause that led to the situation.

Fixing the code should be performed manually, as the responsible developer needs to analyze and identify where the code logic breaks. Depending on the severity of the issue, they may opt for a quick temporary fix or conduct a thorough analysis to address the root cause.

Once the problem is resolved, the development process can be resumed.