What is Poka-Yoke and How to Use it? Lean Six Sigma Awareness Course in Atlanta, Los Angeles


Poka-Yoke is a Japanese term meaning ‘mistake proofing’. 

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What is Poka-Yoke?

A poka-yoke is any design that leads to prevention of errors in a process or a mechanism. It was developed by a Japanese manufacturing engineer, Shigeo Shingo. An example of poka-yoke is the ethernet cable plug, which is designed in such a way that it has only be plugged from one side. A poka-yoke is usually a simple idea that aims to prevent errors.

Poka-yoke when used in processes assures quality maintenance. Poka-yoke is also used to correct mistakes in the shortest time possible. You will mostly find poka-yoke being used in manufacturing. Due to its simplicity and effectiveness, it has been widely adopted by companies all over the world.

Characteristics of Poka-Yoke

Poka-yoke has certain characteristics that made it popular throughout the world. These are:

It is always simple

It consumers very little time to implement

It is cost-effective

It is a part of the process

It is either used in design or placed in close proximity to the worker so that errors can quickly be discovered and corrected

It supports flawless use of the primary device

Prevention and Detection in Poka-Yoke

A poka-yoke device is categorized into prevention and detection. In prevention, designing is done in such a way as to make it impossible for an error to occur. The design is altered to match the design of another device if they are to work together. Altering the shape of objects such as computer floppy or a computer cable plug to make it workable only on a particular device prevent errors because it makes it impossible to make errors in the first place.

To correct mistakes the soonest, poka-yoke uses detection where a device alerts the user of the mistake so that corrective action can be taken immediately. An error detection device removes all errors that had been made, which directly impacts the quality of the end product. For instance, an error detection device that alerts a worker when a part of a product has not been installed ensures that no product goes without that part.

Unlike the prevention technique, detection does not ensure total flawlessness in the operation, as the correction is suggested but not imposed. The prevention technique, on the other hand, ensures full prevention of errors.

Sometimes, detection is preferable to prevention. For instance, if a car does not start until the seat belts are buckled, many users will find it frustrating. On the other hand, if the car does not start until all the doors are properly closed, the user will be thankful for the enforcing. Both prevention and detection, therefore, are used after considering how they help the users.

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