Industryweek 1593 10743bptrwjuarez

Customer Relations: Combating Failure With Knowledge

March 22, 2006
TRW OSS Mexican Operations offers a Seatbelt 101 program to educate, empower customers.

In an effort to educate customers about its seat belt retractors, buckles and height adjusters, TRW OSS Mexican Operations (MexOps), Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico, has implemented a teaching curriculum called Seatbelt 101.

Many customers misunderstand or mishandle the products, resulting in calls to the MexOps plants about parts they deem faulty, according to Mark Adams, MexOps quality manager. In reality, the parts are just fine. It's the operators who need the attention.

"We'll go anywhere to hold the Seatbelt 101 classes, or we will invite our customers to the plant to see their parts being made," Adams says. "Sometimes it's just a case of showing them how the parts are supposed to work."

The parts act differently when they are not installed in a vehicle, according to Adams. What Seatbelt 101 does is educate customers on what to expect from the parts before and after installation. The company also provides a troubleshooting guide that highlights common issues such as noisy retractors and overpacked retractors that appear to be locked up.

Linda Guadalupe Franco Juarez is part of the team at TRW MexOps that won a 2005 IW Best Plants award for the plant's numerous best practices.The program also is a good training tool for employees.

"If we hire an engineer that doesn't know much about seat belts, we can very quickly train them how to build them correctly," Adams says. "We can show them what the specifications are that govern the performance of these parts. We talk about crash scenarios and how the parts are supposed to act and react to what's going on in the crash -- all the physics that take over at the time [of the crash]."

It also is a good in-house training tool any time there is a new technology or a major change in the design or concept of functionality that accompanies a new rollout. It enables everybody to be on the same page all the time, according to Adams.

And from the customer's perspective, the program teaches assembly workers what to look for and what not to reject.

"Sometimes people reject things because of what they feel rather than what they know," says Bill Lee, senior restraint supplier technical assistance engineer at Ford Motor Co., Dearborn, Mich.

As a site quality engineer for Ford, Lee is responsible for the quality of products that come from suppliers. He notes that Seatbelt 101 gives him complete information from TRW.

"It gives me an overall view so I can be more exacting in what I am looking at, more aware of what I am looking at and why things are in the process they are rather than something else."

While Ford's other suppliers offer training programs, nothing is as in-depth as the TRW program, according to Lee.

"An awful lot of my training on seat belts came from TRW," he says. "That training keeps the rejects out of our vehicles."

Says Adams: "The more they know, the less they have to contact us. The best suppliers are invisible, and we want to be invisible to our customers."

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