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Mistake Proofing (Poka Yoke)

Mistake Proofing is an established Lean technique for identifying key sources of error and implementing devices, mechanisms, and methods to prevent mistakes from occurring and, when they do occur, from harming individuals, and the organization.

All systems are subject to error, and it is critical for organizations to have processes in place that reduce both the incidence and the potential impact of mistakes.

Poka Yoke (Mistake Proofing)


Poka Yoke Principles
People and equipment will always be prone to making mistakes. However, our processes should help them do it right, not help them make mistakes. We usually equate speed with productivity. We complicate processes to achieve greater speed. Those complications are what cause many of the errors people and equipment make. The way to really increase productivity is to simplify our processes. This reduces the changes of error directly. The processes are more efficient even without the complication of correcting errors after they have occurred.

Poka Yoke (Mistake Proofing) and Fail Safeing doesn’t violate or negate good engineering practices. Instead it expands on those practices to include ways to help people and machines do the job right as well as quickly. We can’t prevent all mistakes. We can make it easier to do the job right, but mistakes will still happen. Instead of allowing processes and products to continue after a mistake has been made, we can use Fail Safe to stop them. Fail safe is not a new concept. It has been used in the Safety area for many years. What is new is to apply those concepts to areas of our processes outside of safety as well.

All this sounds expensive and time consuming, but it isn’t. Even without the savings in waste and lost time, processes are more efficient when designed using the tools and following the principles of Poka Yoke (Mistake Proofing) and Fail Safeing.

Poka Yoke Definition
Poka Yoke is a Japanese term literally defined as ‘mistake proofing’. It is often used in the context of designing devices, that prevent defects from being made or, if they are made, from moving to the next process.

Poka Yoke Applications
Poka Yoke can be used wherever something can go wrong. It is a technique, a tool that can be applied to any type of processes including: - Healthcare, Manufacturing, Service, Office administrative, and transactional.

Why Use Poka Yoke?
Poka Yoke will help people and equipment “do it right the first time”. Not only is the product right the first time, the rate of the process is increased as well. Traditional engineering processes are designed to increase the efficiency of an operation by enabling people and machines to work faster. Poka-Yoke supports efforts to eliminate waste of:

  1. Over Production
  2. Inventory
  3. Waiting
  4. Transportation
  5. Motion
  6. Over Processing
  7. Quality Defects
  8. Reprioritization
  9. People’s Skills

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