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25 September 2004             

Jidoka & Autonomation

Obscure Elements of Lean Manufacturing

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Jidoka & Autonomation

Taiichi Ohno considered Jidoka one of two pillars for the Toyota Production System. Yet, Jidoka (and Autonomation) receive little attention. Many lean practitioners have, at best, a fuzzy idea of their meaning. The reasons lie in history, shop slang and the vagaries of translating Japanese.

Autonomation simply shuts off a machine when something goes awry. Jidoka means the same thing but sometimes it means automation (in the usual sense) and sometimes it's something else entirely. It's all a bit complicated, as I learned when embarking on, what seemed, a simple little essay. 

Autonomation (Jidoka meaning #1a) was, indeed, very important in the early days of lean at the Kamigo Engine plant. But solid state controls and inexpensive sensors are so commonplace today that the concept now seems trivial. 

Jidoka (meaning #2) refers to the stoppage of manual assembly processes. It can have profound effects in a proper environment but requires considerable foresight and managerial guts. 

All of this needs a lot more explanation than would appear at first glance. Our new web pages make this attempt starting at

Future issues of Lean Briefing will address the related concept of Pokayoke and another misunderstood element, Mixed-Model Production.

All The Best,

Quarterman Lee

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