The concept of fail-safing has emergered since the introduction of Japanese methods of operation improvement. Called Poka-Yoke in Japan (from yokeru and poka inadvertent errors) the idea is based on the principle that human mistakes are to some extent inevitable. The important issue therefore is to prevent them becoming defects. Poka-yoke is a technique for avoiding simple human error in the workplace. Also known as mistake-proofing, goof-proofing, and fail-safe work methods, poka-yoke is simply a system designed to prevent inadvertent errors made by workers performing a process. The idea is to take over repetitive tasks that rely on memory or vigilance and guard against any lapses in focus. Poka-yoke can be seen as one of the three common components of Zero Defect Quality Control performed by Japanese companies (source inspection and feedback are the other two).
More recently, the principle of fail-safing has been applied to service operations. Service poka-yokes have been classified as those which “fail-safe-the-server” (the creator of the service) and those which fail-safe-the-server ( the receiver of the service).
When a process step has been identified where human error can cause mistakes or defects to occur, especially in processes that rely on the worker’s attention, skill or experience.
In a service process, where the customer can make an error which affects the output.
At a hand-off step in a process, when output or (for service processes) the customer is transferred to another worker.
When a minor error early in the process causes major problems later in the process.
When the consequences of an error are expensive or dangerous.