Poka-yoke can be implemented at any step of a manufacturing process where something can go wrong or an error can be made.For example, a fixture that holds pieces for processing might be modified to only allow pieces to be held in the correct orientation, or a digital counter might track the number of spot welds on each piece to ensure that the worker executes the correct number of welds.

Shigeo Shingo recognized three types of poka-yoke for detecting and preventing errors in a mass production system:

Either the operator is alerted when a mistake is about to be made, or the poka-yoke device actually prevents the mistake from being made. In Shingo's lexicon, the former implementation would be called a warning poka-yoke, while the latter would be referred to as a control poka-yoke

Shingo argued that errors are inevitable in any manufacturing process, but that if appropriate poka-yokes are implemented, then mistakes can be caught quickly and prevented from resulting in defects. By eliminating defects at the source, the cost of mistakes within a company is reduced.[citation needed]

A methodic approach to build up poka-yoke countermeasures has been proposed by the Applied Problem Solving (APS) methodology, which consists of a three-step analysis of the risks to be managed:

This approach can be used to emphasize the technical aspect of finding effective solutions during brainstorming sessions.