The Poka Yoke concept was developed at Toyota in Japan. It essentially means to mistake proof or error proof something. It is primarily a manufacturing term, but Poka Yokes show up all over the place in every day life. Like how you can’t put a diesel pump into your gas car. Or jigs used when cutting wood to block a miscut. Many things that make life safer are often mistakenly caused Poka Yokes. It is not truly a poka Yoke unless it stops you from doing it. For example, if you are driving your standard car and you notice that you are red lining it and adjust your gear or speed accordingly – this is not a poka yoke because it didn’t stop you from make the mistake in the first place.
Most hand mixers have a poka yoke when it comes to inserting the beaters. There is a physical difference between the holes or beaters that does not allow you to insert the wrong beater in the wrong hole.
I was keen to make a peach/blueberry buckle for the family here because first of all it is darn delicious and secondly there is an excess of canned peaches here. Apparently there was a “buy 5 cans for $5” and both my mom and brother bought some. To make a buckle, you need a hand mixer for the cake part. It’s not my kitchen and not my hand mixer. Knowing as I do about Poka Yokes, I didn’t pay too much attention to making sure I put the right beater in to the right hole. Well, either the poka yoke was broken or it was ineffective. Because I quickly realized that I put the “octagon” marked beater into the round hole. Easily. Well, if it went in easily then it going to come out easily.
No. That is not correct.
So, I pulled on it. I pulled again. It wasn’t coming out. I was alone thankfully – I’d never hear the end of my brother complaining that I wreck everything – black sheep of the family you know. Hmm. Maybe if I take the whole thing apart there is an emergency release mechanism. I found the screw under a plastic piece and cracked off all the individual pieces holding it together. I finally got inside and found to my chagrin, no emergency release mechanism. So I put is all back together. A single beater hand mixer. What to do? I think I will take the brute force approach and just pull as hard as I can. And you know what? It actually worked. The beater popped out.
Frankly at this point, I was exhausted and I didn’t feel like making this buckle any longer, but I was half in, so inserted the beaters correctly this time and started off.
I turned on the mixer to Level 1. Nothing. Level 2. Nothing. Damn it. Level 3? Yep, we’ve got action. Too much action. Sugar and butter every where. I persevere. I get that cake mixed, fruit on top, crumble made and into the oven. A 15 minute recipe has now taken 1 1/2 hours.
The mixer was eyeing me. Out comes the screwdriver and I take it all apart again. I determine the trouble to be that I didn’t properly secure the electronics attached to the switch properly. But this time I am smart! I plug it in to test it BEFORE I put it back together again. While I hold the electronics in place, I turn it to Level 1. It works!
And I electrocute myself. Son of a…! Ouch! Damn it.
Shake it off. Put it back together again. Test again. Level 1, 2, and 3 work. Hooray.
Wrap up the mixer and put it away like nothing happened. Sit calmly at the kitchen table awaiting my electrical currents to return to normal.
September 10th, 2012 Extra-Ordinary: When my mother came home she finds something on the floor that looks like a dried cranberry. When she picks it up it is a little black rubber piece that I recognize from the inside of the mixer.
Advocate for Poka Yokes, people. They can save your life. Or at least your afternoon.