Andon displays - What are they and how are they used today?

23 Oct 2019

The factory floor can be a confusing place at the best of times. Often very hot, very loud, and there are often a thousand things going on at once. In such an environment, it’s vital that employees and employers alike can know exactly when there is a problem with no fuss and no muss. That’s where the Andon system comes in.

The point of an Andon system is to alert operators and managers about problems in the manufacturing process quickly, conveniently, and automatically in real-time. 

The focal point of the system itself can take the form of either a board containing several KPI’s about the manufacturing process or a more simple stacked light system for less complicated processes.

Andon systems can be customised to operate in several ways, but most commonly, a button is pushed (or traditionally, a cord is pulled) whenever a problem occurs with a piece of machinery. This problem is then registered by the system and is visualised immediately on an Andon display so that the rest of the team can analyse and act upon it.

The instant identification and flagging of problems ensures efficiency is maintained and disruption to production is minimal. The most pressing issues are also the most highly visible, so can be prioritised at a glance. Problems of a lower priority are not overlooked, meanwhile, as they remain flagged until they have been dealt with. This is important for quality control, as production can resume immediately as soon as a problem has been identified, flagged and resolved.

Spectra’s customisable Andon systems are also available with network connection, which allows for greater functionality than simply displaying an immediate visual flag. The network connection allows analysis to be undertaken at a later date, leading to improved KPIs further down the line.

The history of Andon

The origins of the term can be traced back to ancient Japan. It quite literally translates to “fixed, paper-enclosed lantern.” These lanterns were used as signals and so the manufacturers at Toyota decided to take the basic concept of using lights as a signal and use it to display the status of their production lines. 

This proved incredibly efficient and, when paired with a similar system used across the pond by Ford motors (where factory workers could stop the line by pulling a cord) the Andon system we know today was effectively born.

Andon today

Today, most Andon boards are typically high quality LED displays, which are more effective and flexible when it comes to communicating more eclectic information.

 A typical Andon display will provide real-time production and workstation status updates on everything from temperatures, speeds and consumption to production volumes, downtime and production goals. 

Different coloured status lights are often utilised to immediately reflect the operations of a system and typically use the standard, universally recognised ‘red, amber, green’ scheme: green means operation is regular, amber means assistance is required, and red means the line is down.

Of course, many modern factories and production lines are a lot more complex and require more information than simply, ‘good’, ‘not so good’, and ‘help me’. 

The nature of the Andon system evolved alongside advancing manufacturing processes and many of the Andon displays you’ll see today are far more in-depth with LED message boards or even fully-fledged digital Andon displays displaying a variety of information, so workers and managers alike can make more informed decisions. Visual cues can also be reinforced by audible cues, which are particularly important on noisy factory floors. The basic principles, however, remain the same.

The benefits of Andon

  • Immediate, actionable attention can be brought to problems and as a result, productivity will improve demonstrably.
  • The same relevant information is communicated in an efficient manner to everyone working on the shop floor.
  • Encourages workers to act fast when there is a problem, which means a safer working environment and less downtime.
  • For operators, the system will improve accountability, and empower them to take action if and when problems occur.
  • For supervisors and managers, there is a greater incentive to act quickly to identify and resolve issues.

Ultimately, Andon systems and displays will continue to evolve as the underlying technology does likewise. In general, however, they will always add value to the production and manufacturing process by informing the shop floor with timely communication. 

So, if you are on the fence about implementing an Andon system in your warehouse or factory, contact Spectra today to learn more about our leading-edge LED Andon Displays.

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