Toyota is Cutting the Andon Cord?

This is a great post from Mark Rosenthal at the Lean Thinker.



I’ve had three or four people forward various links to a story from Automotive News titled “Toyota Cutting the Fabled Andon Cord, Symbol of Toyota Way.”

Most of those people didn’t read past the headline.

I’ll quote from one paragraph into the article:

“In its place are yellow call buttons perched waist-high within easy reach along the line for workers to hit when a problem pops up requiring help or the line to be stopped.

Toyota switched to the buttons last year at its flagship Tsutsumi assembly plant in Toyota City, during a factory renovation. In Japan, the buttons were first used by a vehicle-assembling subsidiary, Toyota Motor East Japan Inc., at a Miyagi plant.”

The implication?

They got tired of the overhead rope getting in the way of flexibility in how they arranged the line, material, work flows. They improved their system. It is easier for a worker to initiate a help call (which leads to a line stop if the issue isn’t resolved quickly).

They first saw an obstacle (rope in the way) to another improvement (flexibility). They ran an experiment (at the Miyagi plant), wrung out the details, then put it into place in Tsutsumi for a larger scale trial.

What is totally consistent here is the approach to improvement.

We, once again, have confused the artifacts (overhead ropes, work documented a certain way, a method for distributing parts, an approach to tracking quality issues) with the purpose: Making gaps between “what should be” and “what actual is” every more clear so the can work on getting to the next level.

I suppose a headline that read “Toyota Replaces Overhead Rope With Buttons for Improved Flexibility” wouldn’t garner the same number of hits, nor would it trigger blog posts across the lean community, so I guess that headline worked for its intended purpose.

Here is what the andon is all about:

If anyone is looking for evidence that Toyota is somehow abandoning the principle of “Stop the line before passing along bad quality… this isn’t it.”

Written by August 7th, 2014 at 9:13 pm


bh 2014-09-03

FIP: A Simple, Predictive Stat.

Bob Hubbard:

I love seeing people combine things we already understand into something new. Baseball fans know that ERA (Earned Run Average) is a pretty good way to evaluate a pitcher’s performance. While most of us can’t recite the formula to calculate ERA, we do know that lower is better. We also know that there is lots of randomness (luck) related to ERA. I’m not sure if I’m ready to sign on to FIP as the next big thing in baseball statistics, but I am intrigued!

Originally posted on Mozeliak for MVP:

Many different, complex statistics have been created over the past couple decades that tend to overwhelm the average fan. It’s impossible to memorize all of them, and they all speak at so many different levels that the average fan often doesn’t know which one to listen to. The result: all the stats just get thrown out the window. However, the Fielding Independent Pitching statistic (a pitching statistic abbreviated as FIP) does a fantastic job of capturing the essentials of pitching in one stat, while keeping it in layman’s terms. FIP essentially asks this question: what would a pitcher’s ERA look like based on the stats he directly controls, like walks, strikeouts, hit by pitch, home runs, etc? FIP attempts to take defense completely out of the equation, while adjusting the stat to make it look like an ERA. However, with the above definition in mind, FIP should do an even…

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Atlanta Braves 2014 Preview: Aging Trajectories

Bob Hubbard:

While this post does not fall into what I would traditionally call ‘lean’ thinking, it does point out great ways to use statistics to interpret the world. Plus, Jay went to UGA for grad school… and as a former Bulldog myself, I felt duty bound to “Like” and “Reblog” this great post about the baseball team I’ve been following since 1966.

Originally posted on Living In The Sprawl:

Atlanta Braves Home Run Leaders

The home run rate (home runs divided by at bats) of the top 12 home run hitters in Braves history.

Being a consumer of sabermetric analysis, a member of a fantasybaseballkeeper league, and a die hard Braves fan, the age of players is extremely important. You want youth with enough production that it makes sense to take the 23-year-old over the 30-year-old veteran.

When the Braves signed five of their young stars this off season to long-term deals, the team got their best players at below-market value for their most productive years, the mid-20s. They didn’t attempt to re-sign free agent Brian McCann, probably the second best offensive catcher the last five years (and the captain of the Baseball Police), who is 30. These moves show their fans and baseball that the front office actually knows what they’re doing and recognizes that you can’t build a…

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Ricoh Gemba Mat, the best of Ohno Circles, Gemba Walks and Employee Engagement.

Bob Hubbard:

I love to concept of the Gemba Mat… a place and a process to observe value creating activities… and presumably, wastes.

Originally posted on What's the PONT:

Gemba Mat is an improvement tool which combines the ideas behind Ohno Circles , the Gemba Walk and enhances them through employee engagement.  I think it is incredibly effective, not just as an improvement tool but also in how it engages and develops people. I saw Gemba Mat in use at Ricoh in Telford during an IdeasUK networking event.  Thanks to Chris Nicholls from Ricoh for allowing me to share this.

The method is beautifully simple, low-cost and something I think could be used in just about any setting, not just manufacturing environments. This is how it works:

  • The whole process takes 60 minutes;
  • The observers find a good spot, and place the Gemba Mat on the ground;
  • The  observers then stand on the mat and observe what is happening in the process or activity in front of them;
  • To help with the observations there are some prompts on the…

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Call for Papers

Hi folks!

I’m reaching out to colleagues involved in continuous improvement and I’m looking for high quality content for our new online publication titled, Quality Focus Magazine (

Looking for a broad range Quality related topics.

Subjects dealing with metrics, process improvement methodologies, case studies, challenges, deployment, statistics… you get the idea. We would also love to see unique and different topics; e.g., humor, speculation, tools, Opinions, or articles on Quality Management in someone’s personal life. 

We are looking for good content, not necessarily new content. If you’ve been considering  renovating a 2008 article on Muda, Muri, and Muni for a 2014 audience, we’d love to work with you on it. If you are a blogger, consider putting some of your posts together into a longer article. Bottom line is that we want to provide interesting insights to our readers around the world. We’re looking for between 500-2000 words. We LOVE content with visual elements. We work hard to leverage the digital magazine where images really pop!

  • You will be published Quality Focus Magazine in 85 countries through the Apple iTunes Newsstand
  • Your article will also be available for PDF download
  • Your article is accompanied by your bio w/ picture
  • You retain control of your article once it has been published.

Are You interested and ready to go!?

Great! Our monthly deadline is the 15th of the month, so we work on tight timelines. The deadline for the March  issue is February 16th, so if you have something in mind, by all means, send it along soon!

Are You interested but still have questions?

That’s fine too. We want to form long term relationships with industry insiders who have interesting points of view. Even if you don’t have a specific topic in mind, we would love to hear from you. We can help you select a great topic and/or help you write your submission. If you’d like to see an example of a recent issue, please send me a note and I’ll provide a link.

You can respond by replying through LinkedIn, or by emailing me at:

I look forward to hearing from you.

Bob Hubbard
Atlanta, GA