Genius comes in many forms.
Look around you. Think about the screen you’re using to read this article. Or about the Bluetooth technology that allows you to read this article on many screens, through one device.
They’re manifestations of genius ideas – and they’re obvious examples, right? How amazing and complex are our phones and tablets these days? It doesn’t take a lot to see the brilliance that went into those pieces of technology.
But in some cases, brilliance is harder to see.
The Andon Cord
Back in the heyday of the Toyota Production System (TPS), when Toyota was rewriting the record books for car manufacturing, they implemented many unique tools and processes. One of those tools was called the Andon Cord, also known as the Andon Board.
The Andon Cord was a rope. Just a rope. Like you’d use to tie down luggage to the roof of your car.
But this rope was game-changing. When pulled, the rope would instantly stop all work on the assembly line. And the craziest thing about it? Anyone had the right to pull the cord at any time.
When asked about this new process, Toyota took issue with the idea that employees had a “right” to pull the cord. From Toyota’s perspective, employees were obligated to pull the cord if they discovered a problem with production.
If any human being in the manufacturing plant wanted to totally halt production, they were free to pull the Andon Cord. Once all production was halted, a team leader would immediately go ask why the rope was pulled. Then, together, the leader and the team could work to solve the problem and restart production.
It might sound crazy and unproductive, but Toyota realized that unaddressed problems on the assembly line create huge complications if left unattended. The Andon Cord was an abrupt (and effective) way of dealing with manufacturing issues at the source, before they festered into something much worse.
The Andon Cord is a product of Jidoka – a concept that empowers operators to detect abnormal conditions and immediately stop work. Jidoka, created by Toyota in the early 1900s, is one of the founding pillars of the Toyota Production System, and the Andon Cord is one of the most well-known examples of the concept at work.
Organizations Who Still Use the Andon Cord Concept
The Andon Cord is still being used in organizations of all shapes and sizes. Consider Amazon, the electronic commerce mega-giant. They prioritize the customer experience over almost every other aspect of their business, and they use an Andon Cord to help them achieve their customer satisfaction goals.
When a customer calls an Amazon representative to report a problem or defect in a product, the rep has the ability to “pull the cord.” He or she can completely remove the product from distribution until the problem has been fixed, and so far, it has prevented an enormous amount of customer service issues for Amazon.