BLOG 9: Autonomating to enable self-awareness

One of the operators at a client told me that she was experiencing the autonomated Human Interface Mate as a system that relieved her of the stress of making a mistake. The mere thought of making mistakes is not a pleasant thought that people will try to avoid.

Avoiding bad news. We like to receive good news but dislike bad news. Sometimes we think that a mistake we made will be held as a personal failure. This thinking sometimes leads to hiding it and having “bad feelings”. When people come to realize that their ways of working might be dysfunctional, this behaviors can drag down performance. In current workplace with small batches and many variants, full of stress, we may feel that there is no room for recovery, and like a body that only exercises and doesn’t recover, this might result in illness. Becoming aware of this alone is not enough.

We’re only Human

Maybe, just maybe, we can realize that these two things, “bad news” and the personality of the person or the company on the other hand, are two completely different things but are usually correlated! The mistake made probably happened when we were not giving full attention, when we were distracted, didn’t want to work even! We don’t need to take this personal as Billy Joel says “we’re only human, we’re supposed to make mistakes!

Failing because something went wrong doesn’t mean we are a “bad person”. As Dr. Bakx [1] would say “we are only here for a split second in history and still have a lot to learn so this means we don’t have to take the whole world on our shoulders”. The intention of autonomation is to create an environment to reflect and examine our ‘mistakes’ or better said “things that happened”, their underlying assumptions, thinking patterns biases and blindness to the real context. Self-awareness is the first step. The value of autonomation is that it should provide a mirror for self-reflection, encouraging self-awareness, and giving guidance on practice routines, while providing reassurance and confidence that the temporary leadership stop-and-fix can bring stop-and-think. Autonomation for me begins by assuming that violent strategies—whether verbal or physical—are learned behaviors taught and supported by the prevailing culture as at that moment the best known way deliver needs. We all share the same, basic human needs, and that each of our actions are strategies to meet one or more of these needs, sometimes blind our true needs! The true need for us (the operator and all people for that matter) is to be respected, recognized and acknowledged for our contribution and get understanding for our emotional dips.  Our worst nightmare is our fear that our human emotions and actions result in a disappointment by our leaders! At some point we thought intuitively that the earth was flat. Today nobody will state this, so we seem to be able to change intuitive to more thought-through ideas. The same can be done with our intuition on mistakes and emotions. Once we can get beyond this, the path is paved with “things that happened”, their underlying assumptions, the thinking patterns behind them and the brightness of the real context shines more than ever! Many companies define lean as eliminating waste. While this definition is not necessarily mis-taken, it is hollow. This type of lean can limit people’s eagerness to make mistakes, experiment, learn and develop themselves. When the company recognizes that this sense of satisfaction and intellectual curiosity regarding lean was out of balance, it may be a hard pill to swallow [2]. Remaining self-ignorant would have cost the company far more in the long-run but is so much easier to do! The Human Interface Mate could help observe objectively and point out what the operator can’t see. The Human Interface Mate could help operator to be more aware of how she or he is doing. HIM is able to recognize where the operator needs more practice and asks the person to oversee the practice to help them become self-aware. This self-awareness is what I believe is the key to jidoka (as a part of Lean) or autonomation. Autonomation is.. Arkite describes Autonomation as “creating self-awareness for operators”. It guarantees quality through the following principles:

  • Navigate the operator through the process (if necessary) via visual universal micro instructions (in the right place at the right time with the right part)
  • Detect abnormality of deviation from pre-defined standardized work.
  • Indicate deviance visually.
  • Inform and train the operator possible in a motivational and gamified way.
  • Operator displays own observed deviation (s) via virtual buttons.
  • Support the operator in all administrative tasks (such as replenishment, maintenance, HR issues, social aspects).

Don’t automate, autonomate. People matter.
#lean #jidoka #autonomation #augmented reality

[1] Dr. G. Bakx, De Strategie Van Het Geluk/ Nederlandstalig  9789490382445 januari 2011, Witsand

BLOG 8: From smart to wise technologies

The last decade we seem to get overwhelmed with smart technologies. Smart watch, smart glasses, smart glove and shoe, smart bins etc. Though I truly embrace this direction I also want to be aware of the difference between smart and wise.

Today I was astonished by the remark by Ricardo Semler. He has a huge wine cellar but tries to defeat his app that suggests him what to drink next. I also have the tendency to discard what my gps suggested to take as a next route similar to what Daniele Quercia explained in TED following a different path such as a happy route. Netflix tries to get a level deeper with some suggestions of movies or series that you might like. The more an app tries to enforce us a choice the harder we try not to!

In production it is quite similar! If we know we always have to follow a specific path suggested by a computer operators will try different paths. If a machine has many unused buttons they will be tried! And so they should! An algorithm that slows down an operator or is too much sequential as a machine would perform will cause some annoyance. This algorithm can be called smart but is not wise! The Human Interface Mate strives to give freedom back to operators so they themselves can choose paths in accordance to what is expected off course. Smart apps can become wise if the systems allows the operator to get control and the system is merely suggesting that this is one path and many others can be taken. Instead of asking what your preferences are such as Spotify does and thus limiting the number of songs you probably will not like, you could also include a random generator that provides something completely new. The more variety and unpredictability the better in this case! Autonomation creates possibilities, automation classifies them. The focus should not lie in determining in which category you fall but could be a bigger pattern that is being used. The bigger pattern doesn’t care about the categories but about the possible links these could have between them. The latter is what I call abstracting the problem instead of codifying it. Being smart is knowing that a tomato is a fruit, being wise is not to put it in a fruit salad.

Don’t automate, autonomate. People matter. #wise #smart #autonomation #socialtech

BLOG 7: Digital makes people matter

As our number of customers is increasing rapidly I’m frequently asked if the Human Interface Mate (HIM) is an automation of work and replacing the operator. It isn’t! It is a technology combining digital and real, that assists the operator but on the other hand supports the operator so that nothing is forgotten.

HIM is not a computer vision system to check if the part is on the correct position! HIM goes beyond this. HIM can check the product but also processes such as stirring, cleaning, drilling, punching, hammering, bending, glueing without knowledge of the product itself. In most cases such as cleaning by the way the product looks the same! HIM doesn’t eliminate the operator but operates as navigation systemin service of the operator. Classical work instructions that should help in not forgetting something, are simply not read! They never were! When you have a cycle time of 100 minutes, you won’t bother to make instructions detailed! HIM wants to interact with the operator not by forcing a fixed working method but to explore possible new ways of working. That is the advantage of digital age. HIM creates the bridge between the customer need and the person providing this need. Digital redefines the existence of work instructions, planning tools, hierarchy playing the agility cards from lean. But watch out! New possible ways of working? As we experienced at one customer recently, some form of standardized localisation in relation to different operators! Producing anyway you want is still one bridge too far. For instance, taking the part and walking away while assemblying is not what we had in mind to ensure nothing has been forgotten! Most operators work at a location to assemble and don’t combine walking parallell with assemblying. Its is possible however! But staring with the left side and finishing right or vice versa is not an issue as long as the locations can be checked at all times thus providing the HIM support. Bridging this gap from all possible ways and matching this with the expected repeatable standards by the management is the new digital challenge. Stopping with creating work instructions nobody reads to defining standard locations where the work can be done. Leaving the operator freedom to operate. Arkite believes that autonomation is the key driver in any production sector where people are involved, creating the need to intervene and interact with the environment and also navigate the operator to get the job done.

Don’t automate, autonomate. People matter.

BLOG 6: Next hype: sAR

sAR is short for Spatial Augmented Reality.

sAR augments real world objects and people without the use of special displays or smart wear such as monitors, head mounted displays or hand-held devices, Ipad’s or smart phones.

sAR makes use of projectors to display graphical, work-related or instructed information onto physical objects. The advantage of these systems is that the user is not losing attention while focussing on another screen. The user is focuees on where the action should be. This was clearly noted by Pattie Maes (MIT) stating that the need for augmented information will be needed in the future but current technologies make the user look away to a screen.

The information can be static or dynamic providing the user with animated information. A nice example is found at “Le Petit Chef”

Even so in production is not an advantage if an operator has to look away to a screen and try to interprete the image and project himself in the real world.

Don’t automate, autonomate. People matter.


BLOG 5: Next generation work instructions

Increasing the user friendliness for unexperienced operators is one of the most thrilling new features we have been doing at Arkite.

A couple of years ago I trained production companies in ‘how to make instructions’. One of the standard examples I used was how to mount a Lego car. What I have typically seen is that instructions were made with lots of text, arrows, pictures and often too many steps combined. It resulted often in a too complex instruction.

Everybody recognizes the beep from a microwave, a traffic light, an ambulance siren, a blinking smoke detector, even an Apple starting up (sound used for Wally in the Dblog-5-foto-1isney film), the barcode scanner used at the register in a supermarket, beeping when a truck drives backwards, Nokia’s default ringtone, chalk on a blackboard, thunder and lightning, applause, from blinking to static indication of the level of the elevator, the red light indicator on any electric device that indicates on/off, the green/red indication light for availability of a parking lot, the beeping sound and use of color markers increasing in frequency of a car sensor gives you an idea how far you are from an object.

Each sensor and its intended function gives meaning to the user.

What do you think of the difference between above daily social instruction as compared to the production instructions below? (picture from source)

What do you think the symbols below mean?


For sure you know what these symbols mean so why not completely rely on these?

Work instructions can be replaced with dynamic symbols in the production as soon as they are needed, at the exact position, in the right order, leading to clear undoubtable action.

Arkite makes people more experienced and creative as they reach more experienced level. By systematically let HIM (Human Interface Mate) question the way of working in a gamified and production-safe way, a better solution to work can be found and thus utilizing the creative power of people.

Don’t automate, autonomate. People matter. #lean #instruction #autonomation

BLOG 4: How creativity can excel in production!

blog-4-foto-1In todays standardized production we tend to distinguish a master, experienced and inexperienced operator. In many cases the master helped to define the standardized way of working. But where is the creativity? I have noticed that as people tend to work a long time for a company, creativity decreases. New inexperienced people, who have many interesting ideas, are typically trying to fit in and thus killing their creativity. The interesting ideas don’t get the chance they are supposed to receive.

I rather believe that the inability of an inexperienced operator contains an unknown resource for quality and creativity. In the knowledge that an experienced operator blindly proceeds in performing the actions, it seems that the standards have been thought through enough. Before you can reach a standard work process a lot of variant ways to produce have been tried out. All this knowledge is lost in defining the standardized work. This procedure almost automatically kills the creativity the operators have.

On the other hand, there are always operators that tend to do something else than the standard prescribes. How many people I have met stating that operators don’t want to follow the standard! Even the operators that tend to do something else might have found a better way of working! That people tend to be creative and produce in a different manner should blog-4-foto-2not be wrong! I would embrace this creativity to find new ways of improved standardization. I expect that this is also an ongoing source of renewable ideas.

So bottom line, why are we all not using the opportunity for each inexperienced operator to rethink production processes? And why are we not stimulating the experienced operators applying more creativity?

At Arkite we believe in supporting creativity once people tend to become more experienced. It is by systematically letting the Arkite HIM (Human Interface Mate) question the way of working in a gamified and production-safe way, a better process can be found. The creative power of people is then used in it most optimal way.

People matter. Don’t automate, autonomate.

BLOG 3: How to help others not to fall

People make mistakes, it is as simple as that. And we should be proud of making mistakes because nature took 3.5 billion years to perfect it!

In a productblog-3-fotoion environment mistakes are not corrected themselves, we use poka yoke’s. A poka yoke is any mechanism in a process that helps an operator avoid (yokeru) mistakes (poka) without costing time to use. Notice that the performance of the action together with the begin conditions can result in a mistake (not desired possible states of the system or failure mode as common used).

Let me give a practical example. If a person is running fast in a corridor, but the tiles are wet, the person might fall. So running (performance of action) and slippery floor (the begin condition) results in an error, in this case falling.

The begin condition of the wet floor is not always true. Suppose in this case it is wet due to cleaning. Each begin condition can be tracked back to an action performed earlier. Something must have caused the wet floor.

The known poka yoke for this would be to put up a sign saying slippery floor. In fact the possible state of falling of a person could be avoided by adding information in the past eg. putting up a sign after cleaning. The cleaning water could also be altered to better show the presence eg. with color.

So adding extra information during a (former) process can avoid the bad possible states later.

A better designed poka yoke should make sure that the end situation (clean floor) is without any retribution or issues afterwards (still wet and clean floor). So the poka yoke should report instantly if something is wrong and not wait too long for the mistake to appear.

What if you could manage to add real time uniform information step by step making sure that all steps are done?

Arkite’s Human Interface Mate assists the operator real time as if the operator was in a simulation helping the operator to navigate to the next step. As if a virtual angel would look over the shoulder and when the operator makes a mistake, the operator is informed about it so action can be taken to not let the mistake flow to the next step!

Don’ automate, autonomate. People matter! #poka_yoke #lean #autonomation #jidoka

BLOG 2: Navigating through the field of errors

In the nineties I remember when I was travelling, navigation didn’t existed. We used a book with maps. It was not always easy when several directions where presentedblog-2-foto to know which road you actually had to take because a major city was sometimes announced and then some smaller ones. A decision had to be taken quickly, unless you knew the map by head.

In a production environment a navigation system could be called a poka yoke. A poka yoke is any mechanism in a process that helps an operator avoid (yokeru) mistakes (poka) witho
ut wasting time. But as with the paper version of navigation and trying to know things by head, in production it happens that we choose the wrong way ending in the wrong destination: an error. An error is something like all possible states (or failure modes) of a system that can be reached by action.

A good poka yoke like your car’s navigation system will guide you towards good products. What would happen if your navigation system stopped? Would you still be able to find your destination? If a system takes over all knowledge you also will be lost! Good that I didn’t throw away all my paper maps 🙂 ! So a navigation system should at the one hand guide you towards the destination but also try to help you remember how to get there in a gamified way.

To navigate through the process Arkite has come up with a projected navigation system for each step of the process, minimizing the bad possible states but mindful for stimulating the alertness, competence and creativity!

Making operators more master chefs than industrialized robots.

Don’ automate, autonomate. People matter!

BLOG 1: Eliminating error striving towards 100%

Eliminating error and safety is the main function of a poka yoke. However, for those who have tried to make a poka yoke, always something else seems possible that doesn’t make the poka yoke 100% perfect or mistake proof.

Basically, when no system is present to correct or detect and inform the error, the so called error is produced through the actions of an operator

  • by mistakenly altering the sequence or
  • while mounting using a “wrong” direction of an object,
  • wrong position of a tool,
  • by not respecting the process parameters of a tool or machine,
  • pushing buttons in the one exception the programmer didn’t consider yet,
  • standing in the path of a moving object resulting in an incident or accident.

Hence it is possible to perform an non-compliant action resulting in a mistake or

A (technical) poka yoke is any system that results in the correction of the action while performing it OR a system that detects an error in the making and gives a sign to the person or machine performing the action.  The best poka yoke doesn’t add any extra time for the process to complete but are parallel operating.  We should be careful when applying the concept of poka yoke eg. sorting, filtering out bad parts doesn’t prevent bad parts so it can’t be called poka yoke. If the machine produces bad parts the device that solves it, is not a poka yoke. A human interaction is actually needed to talk about poka yoke. If a device checks the part after it has been made, I wouldn’t call this a poka yoke.

What we learn from this is that an error can only be made through human action and the right conditions. If the system isn’t used or in operation no real issue is at hand. If you can eliminate the action no error can be produced. The action requires a change of “energy”. Changing the type of energy needed to create the error sometimes helps to prevent it. In a later blog I will come back to this. So if we can’t eliminate the action, parallel checking and informing or stopping is the only alternative.

Most poka yoke’s focus on the end of operation or by checking initial conditions are met, but also the action itself can be checked, reaching closer to a 100% poka yoke.

Arkite developed a poka yoke to check the process. One of the key features is without adding extra operator handlings (confirmations) and thus time, Arkite’s product – Human Interface Mate- informs the operator in real time of any potential human process deviations.  What’s new is that it can actually check if an operation is performed like stirring a spoon, making a torque action, cleaning a surface.

In an example an operator has to drill holes but sometimes chooses one of the wrong holes. Using the Human Interface Mate the process will be navigated and when any potential deviation would occur the operator would visually be notified to prevent any possible error. Typical alternative solutions will check after the drilling but at this point you’ll have a scrap part. Arkite brings through HIM the logical poka yoke.

People matter! Don’t automate, autonomate.