The Err Is Human… To Error Proof Is Divine

Well maybe not divine but it sure does help you from making those “human error” mistakes. Ever heard of Murphy’s Law? “Any thing that can go wrong will go wrong.” In short if something has the possibility of happening, it will happen. You can only flip the coin on heads so many times before it tails shows up. The same is true for any possible mistakes someone might make at their job. Eventually if they do it long enough you will make mistakes.

So what can we do to stop all these mistakes from happening before they happen? Poka Yoke, aka error proofing, is a great way to prevent errors.

First off lets take a look at types of Poka Yokes.
1) Signal or a sign to help prevent the error
2) Physical barrier or tool to help with a task to prevent an error
3) Design the problem out

Example using a rail road crossing and the error is a vehicle getting hit by a train:
1) Having just a flashing light at the RR crossing
2) Having a flashing light and a mechanical arm that comes down to prevent a vehicle from passing
3) Moving the RR above the road where it is completely out of the way of the vehicles

Obviously option #3 is the best solution but it’s not always the most cost effective so we go to the next best thing which is #2 a physical device or barrier to prevent the error. Other examples of a device might include a jig, a specific size hole for a specific product, templates, etc.

I use this in my personal life all the time. I will always leave my house keys on top of my wallet and my cell phone. If I want to leave the house I never forget the house key. If you are child proofing your house you will plug electrical outlets and gate certain areas of the house so the baby won’t wander in to a dangerous room.

Next time you have a defect in your work area just think “What can I do to make sure this never happens again” instead of “Who’s at fault?” You’re work will go much better in the long run.