Poka-yoke is a Japanese term that means "mistake-proofing". A poka-yoke is any mechanism in a lean manufacturing process that helps an equipment operator avoid (yokeru) mistakes (poka). Its purpose is to eliminate product defects by preventing, correcting, or drawing attention to human errors as they occur. The concept was formalised, and the term adopted, by Shigeo Shingo as part of the Toyota Production System. It was originally described as baka-yoke, but as this means "fool-proofing" (or "idiot-proofing") the name was changed to the milder poka-yoke.
More broadly, the term can refer to any behavior-shaping constraint designed into a process to prevent incorrect operation by the user. Similarly, a constraint that is part of the product (or service) design is considered Design for Manufacturability or Design for X.
A simple Poka-Yoke example is demonstrated when a driver of the car equipped with a manual gearbox must press on the clutch pedal (a process step, therefore a poka-yoke) prior to starting an automobile. The interlock serves to prevent unintended movement of the car. Another example of poka-yoke would be the car equipped with an automatic transmission, which has a switch that requires the car to be in "Park" or "Neutral" before the car can be started (some automatic transmissions require the brake pedal to be depressed as well). These serve as behavior-shaping constraints as the action of "car in Park (or Neutral)" or "foot depressing the clutch/brake pedal" must be performed before the car is allowed to start. The requirement of a depressed brake pedal to shift most of the cars with an automatic transmission from "Park" to any other gear is yet another example of a poka-yoke application. Over time, the driver's behavior is conformed with the requirements by repetition and habit.
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