Jidoka – The Forgotten Pillar

By Ron Updated on February 20th, 2008

In the Toyota Production System house there are two pillars. The one pillar most of the books are written about is JIT. You know all the fun stuff about one piece flow and pull.  But there is an entire other pillar that, in my opinion, does not get enough respect. That other pillar is Jidoka.

Toyota’s website (what better source is there) defines Jidoka as follows: 

The term jidoka used in the TPS can be defined as “automation with a human touch.” The word jidoka traces its roots to the automatic loom invented by Sakichi Toyoda, Founder of the Toyota Group. The automatic loom is a machine that spins thread for cloth and weaves textiles automatically.

There are four main steps to Jidoka. They are:

  1. Detect the abnormality or defect
  2. Stop doing what you are doing… something is wrong!
  3. Fix the issue
  4. Investigate the root cause and ensure it doesn’t happen again

Poka-Yoke is an excellent tool to ensure jidoka is in place. Once you identify a failure mode the best control of all is a Poka-Yoke device. Some call this mistake proofing while others call it idiot proofing. Both work I suppose but mistake proofing sounds more respectful (a key tenet to Lean is respecting people).

If you have never visited Toyota’s TPS website I highly recommend it. Click here to go to the site. The menu on the left will lead you through things like JIT, Jidoka, and the videos towards the bottom of the menu are great!  In short, this site details the history behind TPS and the amazing people that developed it.  Best of all… it’s free!

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  1. Mark Graban

    April 10, 2007 - 6:33 am

    Amen, Ron.

    I was sent an article/column from a “quality” organization publication… the guy makes the case (wrong headedly) that Lean is all about speed at the expense of quality and Six Sigma is required to maintain quality.


    Lean started off being about quality (Jidoka and the Toyoda loom that stopped automatically). It’s never been about moving the metal at the expense of quality… that’s what Mass Production was all about.

    I’ll probably blog about that later tonight.

  2. Ron Pereira

    April 10, 2007 - 7:21 am

    Look forward to reading your thoughts on this Mark. I even admit to falling into the Lean is about speed and Six Sigma is about quality. It is so convenient I guess. Convenient as it may be… it is wrong. If knuckle heads like me can figure this out there is hope for anyone. Cheers!

  3. Anonymous

    April 12, 2007 - 5:33 pm

    That is what the TPS is all about, It was developed to improve quality (as Mark said) but also, think about Japan after WWII, they were, are and will be a very resource constrained economy. They needed to evolve a way to maximize their output with limited resources. Hence higher quality, with fewer inputs.

    EL CID

  4. Naveen

    May 23, 2011 - 11:09 pm


    Everytime I get a new understanding on Pillars of lean.Somewhere these are told as 2, somewhere 6 or 7. How can I understand the correct one\? Please help.

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