Poka Yoke is a Japanese term (poka: mistakes; yokeru: avoid) that means to mistake-proof a process. The goal is to consciously and diligently try to eliminate defects by preventing human errors before they occur or create alarms to warn of potential defects. Below is an example that addresses this concept in multiple areas.
When organizations work with transactional and compliance based processes, it’s imperative to implement systems or processes to mitigate risk of mistakes that could happen when human error is at fault. For example, here at GSK, I work with transactions with customers in our order management system. There could be transactions that are done in the millions and to remove the risk of error, there are constraints in place for holds, warnings and approval levels to ensure transactions are processed accurately and compliant. Another area of “mistake-proofing” a process are our approved talking points. There are many instances that events happen in our industry, whether it’s a shortage of supply, recall of product or even pricing inquiries, that require us to follow a set of talking points approved by legal. Not only does this make sure everyone is communicating the same information, but it also eliminates confusion or even potential harm in a patient’s therapy.
Autonomation describes a feature of machine design to effect the principle of jidoka used in the Toyota Production System (TPS) and Lean manufacturing. It may be described as “intelligent automation” or “automation with a human touch.” This type of automation implements some supervisory functions rather than production functions.
An example of this concept is when car manufacturers use this on their assembly lines. While a lot of the tasks are automated nowadays, this allows a human to monitor the line for potential defects, whether it’s seen visually, or through sensors. These sensors could also be put in place to avoid the human from making an error! These alarms could also be in place for safety, such as shutting down the line when danger is present. Car manufacturers are not the only ones that use this…any manufacturing line or quality assurance function. In the pharma industry, there are many quality assurance checks on products before they are approved to be distributed to customers. These QA checks happen throughout the production lines, packaging and shipping. When a defect is identified, the whole lot is inspected and evaluated to determine if there needs to be any additional action. These are random checks in our automation processes to ensure quality and find any potential defects that could possible harm a patient.