TRAVERSE CITY, MI – Improvements in automotive quality are being driven by common architectures and new processes that are proactive and incorporate input from everyone from assembly line workers to customers.
The result of those World Class Manufacturing (WCM) processes can be seen in the quality of vehicles such as the all-new Chrysler Pacifica minivan and the refreshed Ram 1500 pickup, says Scott Garberding, head of quality at FCA US.
“WCM is responsible for a cultural revolution on our shop floors, and our teams are empowered and constantly working on improving safety, quality and efficiency in all of our plants,” Garberding says. “Today we’re in a far better place than we were seven years ago, and very few people were betting we would make it.”
FCA now uses four elements to measure quality: warranty claims, third-party surveys, cost per car to resolve issues and total warranty spending companywide, with FCA making substantial progress on those measures in 2017, Garberding says.
“Our recent positive trend in quality is based on a commitment to combine proactive, preventative and reactive elements through the entire process from concept to the ultimate ownership experience,” he says.
The ’17 Pacifica highlights the proactive approach, working with designers and engineers – and consumers – to address quality concerns in developing the minivan that ultimately earned a number of accolades, including the 2017 North American Utility of the Year award.
Development input came from 3,000 drivers, 20 focus groups and surveys of 1,400 people, including children.
The vehicle also underwent an FCA-record 3.4-million pre-production test miles, and considerable effort went into assuring quality at the Windsor, ON, Canada, plant where the minivan is built, Garberding says.
He attributes a 25% improvement in J.D. Power Initial Quality results for the latest Ram 1500 to a 3-year program of upgrades in processes at the Warren (MI) Truck Plant. The effort began with a complete overhaul of quality control teams, but also with giving line workers the authority and ability to make improvements and solve problems on the shop floor.
“Quality is the responsibility of everyone, not just the people who have ‘quality’ in their titles,” Garberding says.
Feedback related to quality problems comes directly to production teams from other operations in the plant and from customer warranty claims, with plant workers and team leaders empowered to work with engineering and plant management to resolve those issues.
“The goal of this initiative is to help us identify and resolve problems absolutely as quickly as possible,” he says. “In essence, this program allows us to connect customer feedback to the shop floor within 24 hours.”
Another huge enabler of quality is the implementation of Industry 4.0, says Dave DeGraaf, president-Faurecia Clean Mobility. The process incorporates automation, the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence to improve production processes and upgrade quality.
Similarly, employing the Toyota New Global Architecture is a “game-changer” and responsible for high levels of quality in the all-new ’18 Camry, says Leah Curry, president-Toyota Motor Manufacturing West Virginia.
“It’s a transformative time for our industry and for Toyota” where precision is measure in microns, not millimeters, she says.