Andon is a manufacturing term referring to a system to notify management, maintenance, and other workers of a quality or process problem.

Andon, in Japanese, means “paper lantern.” So, it is an appropriate term for “illuminating” a problem.

Ensto, a Finland-based energy company, uses an Andon system to ensure world-class quality.

Whenever a problem arises that affects the quality of one of their products, an Andon signal is sent immediately. The Andon system is used for issues that must be addressed right away. Ensto uses a war room concept to deal with problems that can be focused on the next day.

Ensto provides a special Andon phone at each of the areas of their factory. The phone is yellow for visibility and pre-programmed to send texts to the appropriate first alert team members. 

Notified team members must go to the site of the problem within five minutes! The clock starts when the Andon signal is sent and ends when all the notified team members are at the problem site.

The first alert, or first wave team in Ensto parlance, is tasked with solving the problem immediately. If they cannot, the alarm is extended, and the first wave team invites a second wave team with the appropriate skills needed.

You can view the Ensto video here to see what other innovations they have adopted in their system.