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Operations: The Next Generation of Automotive Quality

Leading, not lagging measures required to improve performance.

The future of automotive quality should include new methods of measurement. That's according to respondents of a survey commissioned by the Automotive Industry Action Group, a not-for-profit association of automotive supply chain companies and related organizations.

Those members say many current measures reflect past performance or focus too much attention on quality problems of the moment. What is needed to further improve automotive quality, they suggest, are metrics that track leading indicators, perhaps in the areas of design and process. They're also advocating an industry shift toward emphasizing opportunities for good quality over the avoidance of poor quality.

"In other words, how can you generate an opportunity out of good quality versus avoiding cost penalties" related to poor quality, explains Dave Lalain, vice president of commercial development at AIAG.

See Also: Operations Management Strategy & Best Practices

The survey results were released during AIAG's inaugural quality summit, held in September.

"We wanted to focus on the future of quality" with this survey, explains Lalain. "We asked people where they think the [quality] industry needs to go. What is the ideal state?"

The study was carried out by J.D. Power and Associates, which conducted interviews with senior automotive executives and quality experts. It was prompted in part by a "Future of Quality" series AIAG initiated about one year ago, as well as a need to develop some baseline measures.

Also driving the effort, Lalain says, was feedback from members who were concerned that the automotive quality infrastructure may have "taken a hit" as a result of the recession and subsequent departure of experienced quality personnel from the industry.

Lalain says the association isn't seeing an impact from the loss of senior expertise, but again noted that quality measures tend to be lagging indicators.

In addition to those already noted, the study outlined further suggestions to improve quality, including aligning the quality and purchasing departments with a goal to reduce total costs, as well as collaborating with other manufacturing sectors to benchmark and develop new quality solutions.

"We're asking, ‘What can we learn from others? Where are those benchmarks?'" Lalain says.

AIAG will use the study results to identify future quality-related projects. The first two projects will focus on developing leading quality indicators and generating best practices for benchmarking.

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