"The essence of Jidoka is to make the hidden problems clear. If the problems are hidden they will never be resolved."
T. Harada, the manager of Toyota Motor Corporation
Jidoka is the most misunderstood principle of the Toyota production philosophy.
There are two reasons for this. Firstly, literal translation, "intelligent machines" ("self-monitoring machinery") narrows the meaning from the outset, and, secondly, the perception of the idea (properly reflected in the epigraph) by an average Homo Sapiens (AHS) is far too complex.
As for the translation, everything is clear; and as for the difficult perception of the approach, we will try our best to illustrate its origin.
In principle, there are two approaches to solving any problem: you can either remove the cause of the problem or struggle against the symptoms.
Everything is clear from the title, but nevertheless we shall cite the following examples:
The same dilemma of choosing between the removal of the root cause and wiping off the symptoms exists in business. Still, in business situations the picture is even more lively as the boundaries between the roots and the symptoms are blurred by lots of rational incentives to choose the cheaper way of sweeping problems under the carpet.
Let’s look at a more than real example. First, we suggest our readers have a look at our text describing the technology of automatic advance orders.
Automatic advance order (AAO) was originally designed to address the problem of effectively meeting demand for rare and expensive items which, on the one hand, should be in the stock to complete the range and, on the other hand, should be present in single-piece quantity to minimize unsalable stock.
For a plotter worth ten thousand dollars, the AO is a good and graceful technical solution to the efficient sales issue of meeting all demand with minimum inventory.
It is good and effective to the point that other products became available for AAO between shops. There is none at one shop — ok, the customer of the website will make an advance order anyway as he fills his basket and collect his fully arranged purchase the next day (any missing goods will be moved from another shop at night).
And it all appeared so nice and great that attention to each shop’s assortment quality naturally decreased. Why worry about it? Sold out at one shop — they will ship it over from another. Fast.
Problems were quick to appear:
Thus, from an efficient solution to the problem of selling rare and expensive items, automatic advance order has turned into a means of plugging up the symptoms of a serious problem consisting in poor assortment and crappy management in general.
And, in a sense, even as a catalyst that aggravates the problem.
And now — attention, please! Note the specific brain perversion (BP), against which the true causes of the difficulties in bringing Jidoka home to the average Homo Sapiens (AHS) will stand out a mile.
We appeal to the responsible employees of a company that has become dependent on perverted AAO use with our message that there is really a serious problem that causes a great waste of money. It has to be solved. And there is no other means of final solution than to renounce AAO for the entire range of goods and to use it only for the original super expensive and rare items.
The answer will be, "No! We really use it! How are we going to work without it!??"
An attentive reader would ask: why don’t we write the company name here? Unlike in many other texts. The answer is as the follows: this specific problem (as well as the illustrated response) generally refers to all our customers who use AAO for their full range of products.
Man is feeble.
And now it is time for positive examples.
Here is the "Ruki Iz Plech" ("Handy Men") laptop repair shop Russia’s largest post-warranty service center.
The entire repair business process is divided into stages, of which the most complex and potentially problematic ones — diagnosis, repair proper, and testing — are supervised by a service engineer.
In older days (when the trees were so big) that would produce a huge backlog that resulted in slow repair and massive customer frustration with all the entailments.
The "Handy Men" managed to overcome the brain perversion of the average Homo Sapiens (AHS BP) by limiting the number of orders being processed by a service engineer at a time. If the limit is reached at any stage, dia$par will block the distribution of orders to this service engineer until he clears up his backlog. The inflow of orders will be restricted accordingly.
If an executed order is returned for warranty repair (i.e., a customer has a warranty claim in respect of a previously repaired item), the laptop is sent back to the author of the improper repair. And the unlucky fellow will automatically get no new orders until he closes the warranty case, regardless of the number of other orders at the repair stages of. That creates maximum motivation for him, on the one hand, to address the warranty case as soon as possible and, on the other, work better to prevent such claims in the future.
How can we describe the AHS BP that was overcome in this case?
The Handy Men had a choice:
– either to sustain the level of quality by blocking new orders to temporarily reduce the inflow (thus, theoretically, reducing the potential profit)
– or to take up all orders, piling up backlogs and hoping that everything would resolve and settle down somehow (and thus, hoping not to lose a penny of the potential profit).
It is clear that an AHS always chooses the second option. The result is well known: Take any more or less popular service facility and search the Internet for reviews. Their profit, expected to be huge enormous in theory, is in fact disappointing to most of the AHS sub-species.
And the Handy Men also took time to pluck up their courage and switch to the right track under this long beneficial outside influence.
Nevertheless, the results are impressive.
As a result of the many months" painful process of overcoming the AHS BPs, sales increased significantly (by tens of percentage points; it not possible to determine the impact of this innovation more precisely because it took long to transpire while the business underwent many other changes and its volume multiplied).
Customer loyalty varied from the mid-market (or statistically invisible) figure to the results of an independent poll with 71.4% respondents rating the quality of the company’s service at the maximum of five points.
If there is someone among our readers who has to do with the service business, he or she will not willingly believe us. Their skepticism is easy to understand — but read reviews on the Net.
And now — attention, please! A question from the TV viewers" community to the Intellectual Roulette players.
Andrew Belyaev, the Handy Men’s technical director, ??believes that the above innovation exemplifies the correct practical application of Jidoka.
Is Andrew right?
Click on your answer.
The answer depends on the accurate wording of the question.
If we look at the above situation as (a) a still snapshot and (b) as an example use of the Jidoka principle taken individually, — then we can agree with Andrew.
But as (a) Jidoka is not an independent concept, but rather an important element of a holistic manufacturing philosophy of Toyota Co. (which we have already described in detail) and (b) any practically applicable philosophy is dialectical and thus all phenomena must be considered in their development, Andrew has missed something.
In particular, he has disregarded kaizen, another fundamental principle of TPS that stands for continuous improvement. Which, in relation to our situation, dictates constant reduction of the limit on the number of orders at each stage. The system should ideally evolve into a conveyer assembly line not divided into fixed stages at all.
Yes, it is not easy. But it is clear where to go. Best regards to Andrey.