Navigating Andon Cords

by David T. Griffith

Sales for the past few months have been going quite well. In fact, you’re experiencing a welcomed increase across the product line following your Amazon Prime Day deals. Purchase orders are ramping up and customer ratings are great. Then without warning you receive an email from Amazon Retail Business Services or Vendor Central with the subject line containing the words "Andon Cord." You might remember seeing the phrase in the, Inc. ("Amazon") resource guides back when you first joined the site.

What Andon Cord Means

The name Andon Cord comes from Toyota’s automotive assembly line. If a worker comes across a defect, that worker immediately pulls the Andon Cord, halting the assembly line. This notifies managers, the quality control team, and all other stakeholders in the manufacturing and assembly process to take immediate corrective action so production can resume as quickly as possible.

Amazon adopted this process as an efficient method to reduce the number of defects that end up in customers’ hands. Customer service agents are empowered to put a hold on selling a particular ASIN when customer complaints are received indicating there might be a quality control issue that must be investigated.

Never Take It Lightly

When you receive an Andon Cord notification, it means one of your ASINs has been temporarily suspended from selling on the Amazon marketplace until the customer complaints can be investigated and resolved. Issues can focus on physical and functional defects or inconsistency with the product page description. For instance, the physical item lacks a feature that was listed on the product page or its coloring is different.

What You’re Expected to Do

As a manufacturer or a supplier selling on the Amazon marketplace, you are responsible for confirming your products are defect-free and packaged correctly. Furthermore, you are responsible for meeting customers’ expectations based on the product page description.

The Andon Cord email will list the customer complaints received for the ASIN in question. It includes a request for you to check your own inventory for these possible errors and confirm if they are an issue. If the complaint is related to a device’s function, the Amazon fulfillment center team might request quality-testing guidelines to check their in-house stock.

Your standard response time is 24 hours to avoid downtime and loss of potential sales. You’re expected to respond with your inventory findings and plans for subsequent actions.

Multiple Andon Cords for One ASIN

Receiving multiple Andon Cords for a single ASIN over a few months is never a good situation. Amazon will request a return authorization (RA) for the entire on-hand inventory in exchange for a new defect-free batch. Repeat batches of defects risk that ASIN’s permanent removal from the site.

False Alarms

If you feel an Andon Cord is occurring in error, such as a few complaining customers are clearly not following the product’s instructions, you can take action to relist the product right away.

Provide a copy of the product instructions and other available documentation. If applicable, provide your standard QC testing procedures and ask Amazon’s fulfillment center team to perform an in-depth quality check of their on-hand inventory. Simultaneously, verify your in-house inventory is problem-free as well.

After the issue has been cleared and the ASIN is reinstated on the site, consider updating the product page with further information on the product’s functionality to prevent future false alarms.

Rapid Response Is Critical

Andon Cords can negatively affect sales and the product’s search result ranking while off the site. A fast and diligent response from all teams involved in this process – customer service, sales, supply chain, quality control and so forth – is critical. Consider working with your team leaders to develop a rapid response plan for Andon Cords and other similar eCommerce matters. You can never be too fast in this business.

Originally published on November 22, 2016, updated February 15, 2019

This post is accurate as of the date of publication. Some features and information may have changed due to product updates or Amazon policy changes.