Andon: Visual Control

Most of the information people pick up comes from signs and signals. We live daily with multiple signals around us and consciously, or not, so we use them to increase our understanding of our environment, facilitating constant decision-making with a high degree of independence through Andon / visual control.

What is Andon?

Andon is an expression with Japanese origin that means “lamp” / “paper lantern”, and it is related to visual control.

Andon is an element of the Lean Manufacturing philosophy, in which groups work together with a set of practical communication measures used to express, in an obvious and simple way, the state of a productive system.

The above is a definition, so to speak, general.

Visual control as communication technology has multiple applications, perhaps the most important is related to the identification of anomalies and waste.

Its main purpose is to facilitate both decision-making and staff participation, providing companies information about how their performance influences results, thus achieving greater control over their goals.

Visual control empowers and motivates staff through information.

It is very important to emphasize that visual control is a tool that should support the measurement of processes, and not of people.

So, the measurement allows identifies the performance of individuals, attitudes towards responsibilities, and not personal consequences.

When should Visual Control (Andon) be implemented?

As a communication tool, visual control should focus on information that represents added value in a process.

In such a way that its implementation is always welcome, and it is an ideal complement to methodologies such as:

  • 5S
  • Elimination of waste
  • SMED

It is advisable to prioritize those processes in which we identify opportunities for improvement through signaling, so, it works as an indicator of actions and decision-making.

Companies can implement visual control in different areas, such as:

  • Process or manufacturing.
  • Storage.
  • Equipment.
  • Quality assurance.
  • Maintenance.
  • Security.
  • Organizational management.
  • Offices.

It is worth noting that the implementation of visual control must follow a systematic process, for which it is important to ask, among others, the following questions:

  • Does the process we want to control add value?
  • What indicators do we want to monitor?
  • According to the calculation of the indicator, where should it be monitored?
  • How are non-conformities or abnormal situations identified?
  • Who or how is the information recorded?
  • How can the indicators be reviewed?
  • What actions and decisions should be taken according to the information in the indicator?

What are the benefits of Andon (visual control)?

Most importantly, the main benefit of visual control lies in the improvement of the flow of relevant information, and the standardization of communication.

In addition, the implementation of Andon or visual control can contribute to:

  • Eliminate waste or Mudas.
  • Improve quality.
  • Develop response time.
  • Improve security.
  • Standardize procedures.
  • Improve work planning.
  • Contribute to order and organization.
  • Encourage participation.
  • Motivate staff.
  • Reduce costs.

Types of visual control (Andon)

As mentioned above, visual control has multiple application methods. Therefore, these are suited to different objectives and can be broadly classified into:

  • Equipment and spaces.
  • Production.
  • Visual control in the workplace.
  • Quality control.
  • Visual safety check.
  • Indicator management.

Here are some of the most common visual control practices:


Alarms are a basic type of audio-visual control, usually used to communicate in urgent situations. Frequently, organizations assign different notification ratios according to the amount or type of sound. For instance:

  • 1 Sound : Security situation that implies alerting the company’s security department.
  • 2 Sounds : Security situation that involves alerting and summoning the entire security brigade of the company. The rest of the collaborators must remain vigilant, but they can continue with their work.
  • 3 Sounds : Serious security situation that involves alerting and summoning the entire security brigade of the company. Meanwhile, the rest of the collaborators should evacuate calmly and go to the established refuge sites.

Companies must check these alarms once a week, on the same day, and at the same time.

Colored lamps (turrets)

Colored lamps, also known as turrets, are installed in production lines, equipment, or manufacturing cells to communicate their status. These colored flags are the new way to control the factory floor and the numerous lines of production. 

Each color represents a state, and the state – colors relationship varies from one company to another, however, it is common to find that:

  • White / Blue: Problems related to the raw material (for example: shortages).
  • Green: Equipment or cell operating normally.
  • Yellow: Equipment or cell inactive due to some maintenance failure. If the light is flashing it may represent a reference change.
  • Red: Equipment or cell with quality problems, or in which an accident occurs.

The installation of these elements implies establishing an action protocol so the lamp’s state attracts the attention of the person responsible of:

  • Supply
  • Maintenance
  • Security
  • Production
  • Supervisor.

One point lessons

Also known as OPL, is a communication tool, used for transfer simple or brief knowledge and skills.

It is worth clarifying that, although the knowledge transmitted through an OPL is not very complex, it does not replace a Standard Operation Plan (SOP). It can be used as a complement to an SOP, or to transmit information that does not require it.

A good OPL must, in essence, allow easy, clear, and precise learning.

For example, it is normal that the manipulation of printing or photocopying equipment is in charge of one person, and that some workers do not know the operation of the equipment; so that an OPL that details the operating steps of the equipment can be very useful at any given time.

Even one-point lessons can complement different methods of visual control, for example, a collaborator can create an OPL in which they specify the meaning of the colors of the “turrets” installed in the production lines or the meaning of the “pyramid of security.”

Information boards

Information boards are visual control tools that provide automatic and continuous traceability or monitoring of the production plan. 

In practice, the board is normally programmed with a counter whose rhythm is a function of the takt time (customer purchase rate), and a counter that is updated with the records of finished units sent directly from the line. 

As a result, the takt counter is the goal because it is possible to compare and determine the differences in the productivity of the process.

“Productivity means doing things in such a way that, in the case of the company, it is as close as possible to its goal. Everything that brings a company closer to its goal is productive; everything that does not carry it is unproductive.”

The Goal (Eliyahu Goldratt).

Checklists for visual control

Checklists are visual control tools that allow activities to be carried out according to a previously established procedure. These lists have infinite applications is principal purpose is to follow safety and maintenance procedures at a glance.

Marks on the floor

One of the main visual control tools to implement order, organization, and standardization, are the marks on the floor. These marks are usually made through vinyl tapes. It is common to find the color relationship in the following way:

  • Green area: Indicates good product.
  • Blue area: Indicates raw material and product in process.
  • Red area: Indicates non-compliant product.
  • Yellow / white marking: Delimits corridors, safe transit areas.
  • Black and white marking: Delimits maintenance areas.
  • Black and yellow marking: Delimits areas of caution.
  • Red and white marking: Delimits security areas.

They are undoubtedly an essential visual control tool, denoting organization and preventing chaos.

Job marking

Like floor marking, job marking is an important tool to implement order, organization, and standardization. They certainly contribute to improving the efficiency of workstations.


The scoreboard is a visual control tool that companies use for the inclusion of performance indicators.

Its main function is to show how the performance of the collaborators influences the results of the processes, lines, and organizational objectives.

These tools are very rich in relevant and value-added information, according this, a collaborator after analyzing a scoreboard will have a broad idea of ​​the status of the processes, therefore contributing, among other things, to line changes, speed of response, plant presentations, staff motivation, etc.

Security pyramid

The security pyramid is a visual control tool that serves to represent the indicators established in Bird’s theory of causality.

Above all, it shows us the proportionality between accidents with lost working days, accidents without lost working days, accidents with material damage, and incidents.

In conclusion, there can be as many visual control methods as possible, the important thing is that there is a high degree of commitment from the organization’s management in the implementation of the control tools.

The interest that the collaborators give to these methodologies relies on this.

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