Quote: less andon cord pulls means less learning

November 24th, 2020

For example, at a Toyota assembly plant, I once was told that the normal number of andon pulls is typically around 1,000 per shift. Each pull is an operator calling for assistance from their team leader because the operator is experiencing a problem; a cross-threaded bolt here, a task that took a little too long there. Naturally, the number of andon pulls per shift varies, and I once heard of it dropping to only 700 pulls/shift. When I ask non-Toyota managers what they would do in this situation, I often get the answer, “We would celebrate the improvement.”

According to my source, what actually happened when the number of andon pulls dropped from 1,000 to 700 per shift is that the Toyota plant’s president called an all-employee meeting and said,

“The drop in andon pulls can only mean two things. One is that we are having problems but you are not calling for help. I want to remind you of your responsibility to pull the andon cord for every problem. The other possibility is that we are actually experiencing fewer problems. But there is still waste in our system and we are staffed to handle 1,000 pulls per shift. So I am asking group leaders to monitor the situation and reduce inventory buffers where necessary so we can get back to 1,000 andon pulls per shift.”