Toyota’s Andon Cord and its implementation in Software Development.

Farida Aliyeva
4 min readNov 22, 2020

With the rapid development of technologies, we have faced the “rise and falls” of lots of companies. They have taught us new management techniques and problem-solving approaches. But not all of them proved to be effective and flexible that can be applied to any possible industry. According to the Law of parsimony (Occam’s razor) — the simplest solution is usually the right one. Following this rule, Toyota’s Production System (TPS) invented a tool called — Andon Cord, which proved to be effective not only in car manufacturing.
Generated by Toyota, the Andon Cord is a Jidoka quality method. Now let us dive deep into the definition and the origin of the method.

The origin of the Japanese word “Andon” comes from the use of traditional lighting equipment using a fire-burning lamp made out of paper and bamboo.
This “Andon” idea was later adapted for use in manufacturing in Japan, which signals(highlights)an anomaly, such as a potential quality issue. Thus, when a defect was found, a specific board lights up and signals that a particular workstation has a problem. Moreover, the signal would also indicate that the whole system was stopped due to the defect and was waiting for the problem to be resolved. The process of stopping a system when a defect was suspected originates back to the original Toyota System Corporation to something called Jidoka. The key feature of Jidoka is that you get an immediate opportunity to find the root cause of the problem and improve it, by stopping the whole system. In other words, you do not let the defect move further till the finish line and make the whole process problematic and unresolved. The Jidoka concept was pioneered by the original Toyota founder, Sakichi Toyoda who the father of the Japanese industrial revolution and also the founder of the original Toyota Systems Corporation (before they manufactured automobiles).

Sidenote:The Andon Cord is being used in organizations of all shapes and sizes.

Toyota Andon Cord — The DevOps Handbook (1st ed. 2016) Kim et al.

Referring to the picture we can see the whole process of pulling the “Andor Cord”. One of the key points behind this concept is that every employee was obliged to pull the cord if he/she discovered a problem with production. Once all production was halted, the team leader arrived at the workstation and thanked the team member, and asked why the rope was pulled. Then both the leader and the team could work to solve the problem and restart production. The gesture of thanking the team member for the failure emphasized the cultural belief that failure is nothing bad, on the contrary, it creates learning opportunities. This is an excellent example of a “Safety Culture” or “Blameless Culture” learning pattern.

Companies using “Andon Cord”

Amazon— the electronic commerce mega-giant. Amazon uses “Customer Service Andon Cord” to help them achieve their customer satisfaction goals.

Whenever a customer calls Amazon to report a problem or defect in a product, the representative can “pull the cord.” Then the product can be completely removed from distribution until the problem is fixed, and therefore, it prevents an enormous amount of customer service issues for Amazon.

Netflix — the world’s leading media streaming platform. Although they do not call it “Andon Cord” like Toyota, Netflix considers failures as good things. They have built the automated version of Jidoka. At Netflix, a new form of Jidoko is injected into the systems on purpose by intentionally trying to break systems in production. They have developed what is now famously called Chaos Monkey. Chaos Monkey is a process that randomly kills live running production servers. It’s part of Netflix’s culture. Developers plan and Poka-Yoke (mistake-proofing) their code and systems accordingly.

Andon Cord in Software Development

In software development, the projects move on regardless of the existence of bugs. This ends up having bugs within the whole development process. Automated testing is the solution that can be simulated as Andon Cord within the development process. It will mainly signal the issues to the development team and the leaders. In case if the test fails, the team leader along with the developer should address the issue/bug. If they are not able to resolve the issue within a predefined time interval then the development process stops and the whole team works to resolve the issue until it is cleared. For this to be possible to implement the automated testing should be extensive and in-depth meaning that tests will cover all the aspects of software development from code quality and performance, to compliance and security, and everything in between. This way when a test fails and production stops until resolved; there is reassurance that at least the event won’t repeat itself.

Another possible way to simulate Andor Cord in Software development is A/B Testing. Sharing the current progress with clients (often the same day the code was developed) and getting the Feedbacks that enforce that they are building what their clients want.

Thank you for your time :)

References:

https://itrevolution.com/kata/#:~:text=The%20Andon%20Cord%20was%20a,manufacturing%20line%20at%20any%20time.&text=As%20the%20story%20goes%2C%20anyone%20could%20pull%20the%20Andon%20Cord%20anytime.

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Farida Aliyeva

Data Scientist at SDH | MS Graduate in Computer Science and Data Analytics