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Understanding the Andon Cord as the Key to Lean Operations

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Enhanced productivity with a skyrocketing revenue! Isn’t it every business owner’s dream?

Even though that’s the goal of every firm, not all businesses are fortunate enough to achieve it. But if you know about a certain practice, you can take your firm to the next level.

Yes—there’s a practice that will help you achieve higher profits, as well as increase employee satisfaction, enhance sustainability, and improve product quality. Sound too good to be true? Well, once you start incorporating the andon cord, along with lean operations, in your business processes, you’ll be a believer. Success is going to be the reality of your firm for the long haul.

In this post, I’ll discuss that very practice. You’ll learn about what the andon cord is and why you should care. I’ll also talk about how lean engineering drove the creation of the andon cord, and I’ll share the cultural change it brought about. As a result, you’ll understand ideas that can change your company in a way that matters.

andon cord

What Are Lean Operations?

In manufacturing, operations such as transport have no direct relevance to the customer. Same goes for motion, inventory, waiting, overproduction, and overprocessing. Hence, the industry calls these things waste.

Lean operations reduce waste and boost the effectiveness of an order. But what exactly are lean operations? The term refers to a kind of project development methodology that works by focusing more on the satisfaction of a customer while keeping the resource expenditure as low as possible.

So what’s waste in the tech world?

There are several processes during different stages of the software development life cycle that are not relevant to the end user. For instance, suppose the tester catches a critical bug. It’s important to fix that right away. If the team delays even slightly, it may cause a major issue in production. In this case, it’s the developer’s responsibility to stop their current task and cater to the issue at hand. 

The key to running a successful business is the value it provides. Thus, every firm requires a system that can curb waste production. And they need one that maximizes the efficiency of organizations.

Importance of Lean Operations

Lean operations have their own set of long-term and short-term benefits. Apart from waste reduction, there are several other benefits we can vouch for. Let’s dive into the details.

1. Better Product Quality

Compromised problem-solving techniques are the root causes of quality issues. Lean operations streamline the workflow and improve the quality of products and services. For instance, if you make sure no bug or backlog is left unattended in the testing phase or in production, the overall quality of the end product will be up to the mark.

2. Enhanced Visual Management

Lean operations make abnormalities stand out during a visual scan of the area. It brings issues into the light and helps you reach practical solutions. In this way, lean operations enhance visual management.

3. Reduction of Manpower

What’s better for a business than getting more work done with less workforce? This means reduced labor cost, and it can eliminate the need to manage a lot of staff. Use the available workforce and the skills of employees in core operations. It’s one of the basic steps for the betterment of the company! 

In the software world, lean operations focus on reducing manual labor by placing more importance on automation. As an example, we can look at the current-day trend; manual testing has overwhelmingly been replaced by automation tools and frameworks.

4. Easier Management

For employees, lean operations paint a clear picture regarding their daily assignments. This happens either by maintaining an audit trail or by creating visual work instructions, thereby promoting standardized work instructions.

As a result, employees know what they need to deliver, and management becomes more relaxed.

5. Improved Employee Morale

Once the concept of lean becomes mainstream, employees will realize their true potential. One of the primary goals of lean operations is equal work distribution. When lean is implemented in a project, employees have direct ownership of what they do. 

There is a popular phrase in the industry: “You are the leader of your own work.” Employees will feel that way, and they’ll also recognize that their contribution is worthwhile and that they’re an asset to the development of the company.

What Is an Andon Cord?

In the 1990s, the Toyota Production System was busy rewriting the car manufacturing rulebooks. They implemented a wide array of processes and tools. One of the most crucial tools they made use of was the andon cord.

Every employee had the right to grind productivity to a halt if a discrepancy occurred. They did this by pulling a physical cord that would shut down the entire operation. Team leaders had to resolve the issue before resuming production.

That might sound unproductive or abrupt. But the approach was fruitful in the long run, as solving problems in time created an efficient system. Before the minor issue could grow into a major one, the team leaders and members could resolve it. And they did this before moving on to other processes.

The andon cord represents a system by which any worker can invoke attention in case of a problem. It sends a notification to the maintenance or the management team before it’s too late. Consequently, it reduces waste and boosts progress.

Imagine that the software your team is just at the very beginning stage of development. By implementing the andon cord technique, your team is eliminating all the discrepancies found during verification testing. The entire development process, along with the final outcome, is more likely to be free of shortcomings.

How Andon Cord Benefits Lean Operations

Consider the “check engine” light in your car. It notifies you when there is a problem. Likewise, the andon cord in lean operations alerts the control team in case of a discrepancy.

Using the andon cord in time can save you from significant losses in the long run. On that note, let’s take a look at the benefits of the andon cord in lean operations.

1. It Eliminates Waste at the Source

The basic principle behind the andon cord is that you have to cut the root cause of waste. Follow this practice instead of implementing symptom-focused treatments.

Consider this scenario: there’s a factory where the workers have to clean up the dust daily. Employing more employees to sweep the floors isn’t a wise choice, right? A better solution is to cut out the source of dirt.

Let’s think about the exact scenario from a developer’s point of view. Developers can work hard to meet client requirements. But what if they fail to fix a sensitive defect? Moreover, what if they miss developing an important feature of an application? The effort is in vain.

2. It Prevents Compliance Breaches

Being able to pull a virtual andon cord allows you to surpass the dependent systems and drop testing limits. You can do this via service virtualization mechanisms and techniques, which detect synthetic test data. Additionally, the andon cord helps in removing expensive compliance breaches.

This will help you gain performance insights. The andon cord supports performance monitors, workers, and team leaders. And when you generate reports from the requirements-gathering stage until when the project is in production, stakeholders can view that insight whenever they need.

The best part is that everything is available at each step. This allows you to resolve problems whenever they arise.

3. It Means a Better Customer Experience

Delivering flawless customer experience across different platforms is a must. It’s mandatory for a customer-centric organization to be able to pull the andon cord—well, when something goes wrong, of course.

Incidents distract us from delivering the ultimate customer experience. But it’s possible to fuel progressive improvement programs with the use of the andon cord.

The users of this tool treat every customer issue. That includes but is not limited to performance and functional problems. Suppose the application you’re developing is just about to be deployed into production. But then, a visual regression bug is detected. Pulling an andon cord will immediately halt deployment so that the developer can address the issue. Plus, you can see user behavior as an opportunity to improve your systems.

4. It Enhances Customer Monitoring

Monitoring customer experience in real time is vital. It’s one of the essential requirements to maintain impeccable customer service. You can also use the andon cord to treat all suboptimal customer experiences.

Integrating advanced analytics with the andon cord prescribes code improvement techniques to the developers. By constantly using application monitoring to look for defects and by asking developers to fix each and every critical defect, you improve coding standards. Developers can understand the importance of maintaining code quality, which will ultimately reduce the defect count.

Additionally, you’ll see improved process visibility across the entire portfolio. You can complement the andon cord by utilizing, for instance, the services of Plutora, thereby ensuring the quick delivery of high-quality software.

5. It Centralizes Point-of-Contact

Implementing the andon cord in lean management requires streamlining the communication between the organization and stakeholders. Perfect, timely responses to unexpected issues are the key to flawless service.

The andon cord enables a team member to act as a point of contact between the organization and its clients. The team member can either be a business analyst or the project lead—as long as that lead has adequate product and domain knowledge.

6. It Improves Employee Training and Well-Being

As we established, you need to cut down on the occurrence of defects detected during the testing phase. The andon cord helps your employees learn the importance of continuous delivery by

  • Reducing manual work and promoting the use of automation tools for faster work.
  • Helping developers focus more on maintaining the product quality through quick defect fixing.
  • Ensuring that defects are fixed within the time frame.

Ultimately, when you employ the andon cord, you prioritize stopping production for problems, raising the coding and scripting standard of a developer or a tester. In that way, you maintain the quality of the finished application. And you ensure better employee training, too—they learn right away that defects are unacceptable in your shop.

Another key point is that andon cord ensures your developers have better mental health by

  • Reducing the work hours.
  • Fixing defects at the start instead of keeping it for the end, like things went under the waterfall methodology.
  • Preventing the over-exhaustion of employees by ensuring quick elimination of defects before they impact other modules of the application.

Conclusion

The presence of waste in a production system can act like a poison that can sabotage a business. But if every employee feels empowered to call out the inadequacies and errors, a company can thrive. Now, what about a firm that fails in eradicating inadequacy at the root? It risks paying a hefty price in revenue in the long haul. But don’t worry. Implementing correction at the initial production level can preserve your customers’ trust.

The andon cord helps you with its efficient fault detection methodologies. As a result, your business will excel with an expanding clientele.

Arnab Chowdhury Arnab Chowdhury

Arnab is a UI developer by profession and a blogging enthusiast. He has strong expertise in the latest UI/UX trends, project methodologies, testing, and scripting.