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27 August 2020
Process Improvement

LEAN PRINCIPLES FOR SME’s Principle 4 – Jidoka, First Time Quality


Are your manual processes a barrier towards greater productivity?  Do you engage and empower your teams to strip away waste & inefficiency?  Do your staff embrace continuous improvement as the norm?

My 5 blog series for business owners and leaders, will focus your efforts to emerge renewed and reenergized after lockdown

Principle 4 – Jidoka, First Time Quality

Have you dipped into the detail of how your staff are delivering the product or service you provide to your customers? Do your business systems include a log of the number of complaints and reasons why the client is unhappy?  These are key indicators that every business should be monitoring regularly to achieve maximum productivity from the hours and materials invested in delivering first class service or top quality products, first time, and every time.

The Japanese refer to this as Jidoka – First Time Quality – building in quality as an intrinsic element of production, or service delivery, solving problems in real time, and as close to the source as possible.  The main goal of Jidoka is to be free of defects.  The idea originated from an automated loom, developed by Sakichi Toyoda, of Toyoda Loom works, which later became Toyota.  This new mechanism automatically stopped the loom working when a single thread broke, thereby preventing any faults or flaws in the fabric, and ensuring a perfect weave.

Introducing lean principles into your own workplace will empower your teams to stop the production, or alert management to a point in the service delivery which doesn’t deliver the perfect customer experience.  In Japan this is done by pulling a cord, the Andon, to activate a visual and audio alarm to alert a supervisor or support personnel to change or solve the issue so it cannot reoccur in the future. Safety is managed hand in hand with quality in this respect, if doing the work appears to be unsafe or represents a hazard to the workers.

Get it Right First Time

Getting things right first time is ultimately more efficient, and Jidoka is the main reason why companies practicing these Lean principles will be more successful at improving quality.  Jidoka is one of two pillars of the original Toyota Production System, the other being the Just in Time principal (JIT).  This quality control process applies four key steps

  1. Detect the abnormality or defect
  2. Stop the work/process
  3. Fix or correct the immediate condition
  4. Investigate the root cause and install a countermeasure

In a large percentage of businesses the quality control often only reaches step 3, where an interim correction or adjustment is made, but the temporary “sticking plaster” fix is consequently absorbed into the work flow; it becomes the norm, adds a small and probably invisible inefficiency of extra work into the process, without actually resolving the root cause. 

A Multitude of Small Hidden Inefficiencies

However, when this quick fix approach is replicated dozens of times through the business, these small inefficiencies build to a point where productivity suffers dearly, and the managers find it difficult to unravel what the root cause problem was in the first place.  This is when you might find customer complaints growing, or product returns increasing, costing you time and money to rectify or replace.

Correcting this, reviewing the whole work flow and process steps then becomes an expensive and time consuming exercise to clean up.   Investigating the root cause and installing a once and for all countermeasure solution is the key to achieve first time quality, every time.  Businesses must develop their quality performance indicators around each defect or abnormality, to monitor whether the root cause has been detected, and check the countermeasures implemented are being effective.  

In next weeks final blog of the Lean Principles for SME’s, I’ll be concluding with Continuous Improvement – empowering your entire team to improve their work processes one step at a time using the simple cycle of Plan, Do, Check, Act.  


Alluxi is here to offer you support through these times of change, bringing a facts and figures approach to evolve your business and realise your goals.

As a first step towards identifying your current business challenges and evaluating where your future opportunities exist within your business, we invite you to complete the in-depth Alluxi Business Success Scorecard delving into the 10 key critical success areas.

Take 15 minutes to respond to the scorecard and get your results within minutes.  You’ll have the opportunity to book a follow-up Productivity to Profit Breakthrough Session to find out how you can implement rapid and measurable improvements.