Driving Breakthrough Performance

July 23, 2009
Bendix takes a structured approach to improving quality.

"Don't underestimate the effort that it takes to plan the change in your culture," said Eddie Wilkinson. "Because it will happen, change will come one way or the other. [But] how do you influence it? How do you make it change the direction you want it to go rather than allowing it to transform on its own?"

Wilkinson, vice president of quality and product safety at Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems, shared his thoughts during IndustryWeek's recent annual Best Plants conference, where he discussed his company's change management efforts. Bendix manufactures safety technologies, braking systems and other control systems for medium- and heavy-duty trucks, buses and other commercial vehicles.

Bendix embarked on a vision to drive breakthrough levels of improvements at the company, not merely incremental improvements, Wilkinson explained. Important to that effort was the need to clearly define the driving forces behind it. In the case of Bendix, Wilkinson outlined five:

  1. Customer requirements and satisfaction demands zero defects.
  2. Product safety failures are unacceptable going forward.
  3. Product quality is critical to future business success.
  4. Recalls and warranty issues drive significant costs and wastes.
  5. Our ERP system changes/enhances all processes. (Bendix was rolling out a new ERP system at the time of his keynote address.)
The Bendix vice president shared with audience members the detailed planning and execution that drove its breakthrough quality program, emphasizing two points repeatedly: Everyone must be engaged in the process, and clearly defined directions and paths to success should be spelled out.

Bendix provided that structure and direction in a detailed guidebook it created. Structured approaches and maturity paths were created for a wealth of processes, including for example, TPM or total productive maintenance. The maturity path grows from beginning to improving to succeeding to breakthrough. At the breakthrough level for TPM, according to the guidebook, "preventive and predictive maintenance is autonomous and effective at avoiding unexpected machine downtime."

The company also developed a manual for suppliers, furthering the structured approach. Called the Quality Management Program for Procurement, all of the Bendix suppliers "had to agree to conduct their business in this way with our products," Wilkinson said.

Other tidbits from Wilkinson's address included:

  • Often product design gets left out of continuous improvement, he noted. To reach step-change improvements in this area, Wilkinson said Bendix had to improve the up-front part of the design process. That meant better defining customers' needs and how those tied to product and process design. He mentioned that the company also enhanced its DFMEA (Design Failure Mode and Effects Analysis) process, including defining what a "good" DFMEA looks like.
  • The vice president spoke of research by Bendix that showed that a big failure was always preceded by small failures that demonstrated that processes were out of control. Yet resources were sent only to address the big failure. Bendix now looks internally and at its suppliers to address those small anomalies before they grow into bigger problems.
  • Wilkinson spoke at length about the "people development" aspect of total organizational engagement, sharing with the audience the company's Integrated Performance Management Development. Key to this development plan are success attributes, which are expected behaviors integrated into personnel evaluations as well as the performance measures to reinforce those behaviors. Wilkinson said the success attributes were completely redefined to drive the vision of breakthrough improvements.
To view Wilkinson's entire presentation and Q&A session, go to Wilkinson Keynote Address.

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