Lean philosophies and techniques are commonly used by companies to eliminate waste and improve productivity in their manufacturing operations. Lean stresses the use of “visual” tools and techniques to make it more visually obvious for appropriate actions to be taken for efficient processes. The use of Andon Boards is one of the principal elements of the Toyota Production System and a part of the Lean approach. Andon Boards are effective tools that provide highly visual “communication” that signals a need for action, regarding a process or piece of equipment.

An Andon Board or Andon System is the Japanese name for a visual production control device (usually a lighted overhead display) that continuously shows changing status of the production line and sounds alerts if a problem is imminent. The term “Andon” comes from an old Japanese word for paper lantern. A common place example of an Andon Light System is the warning light on your car’s dashboard that warns when the gas tank is getting close to empty.

Andon Boards help companies to reduce process interruptions and reliance on word of mouth and emails as communication tools to signal a need for action. Andon Light Boards typically use light, color and pulsing/steady intensity to signal different statuses.

Common uses of Andon Boards include:

  • Production line status
  • Raw material status
  • Maintenance or other help requests