Error Proofing

The Tool and Why It’s Valuable

The goal of error proofing is to design processes so that mistakes are prevented, or at a minimum, detected immediately after they occur. Also called “mistake-proofing,” error proofing should be implemented in a process when rework or process delays downstream are impacting process efficiency.

There are two methods of error proofing that can be implemented: the prevention approach or the warning approach.

  • Prevention requires changes to the process that stop errors from happening.
  • Warning uses signals, such as visual indicators, that bring attention to an error and stop the product from moving to the next process step until the error is fixed.

How to Apply It

  1. For each improvement, determine the means by which something could be done incorrectly. This may be done by testing or by gathering actual failure data.
  2. Work with a team to develop options for how to control the issue, either through design (prevention approach) or through alert of issue (warning approach).
  3. Implement mistake proofing steps, observe future failures, and gather data for on-going improvement.
Pearls and Pitfalls
  • It is better to move quality forward, using error proofing to prevent errors (prevention) rather than inspecting to identify them (warning).
  • Error proofing is a progressive process. Instead, get available thoroughly, but do not wait for a perfect solution.
  • Analyze your options controls in place as soon as possible and work overtime to refine.

Key Points

  • Sometimes it may not be possible to prevent errors, so your goals should be to detect and fix errors as soon as they occur.
  • Checklists, visual management, and standard work are all ways to error proof a process.
check list
Checklists ensure steps mistakes. In this example, tape across the binders help people put the binder back into the right spot.
Using simple visual cues helps prevent are not missed.
simple visual cues
eletronic form
Electronic templates (word, Google form, etc.) make it difficult to enter the wrong information.