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:
- The contact method identifies product defects by testing the product's shape, size, color, or other physical attributes.
- The fixed-value (or constant number) method alerts the operator if a certain number of movements are not made.
- The motion-step (or sequence) method determines whether the prescribed steps of the process have been followed.
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.
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:
- identification of the need
- identification of possible mistakes
- management of mistakes before satisfying the need
This approach can be used to emphasize the technical aspect of finding effective solutions during brainstorming sessions.