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The prevalence of recalls in recent years has contributed to a significant, yet unnecessary expense for manufacturers and an added burden on single-source suppliers. In the first six months of 2014, U.S. automakers hit a record high with the total number of recalls reaching 39.85 million vehicles. In the past five years, 12 million vehicles have been recalled for a faulty airbag inflator, affecting nearly every major automaker.
Automobiles are more complex than ever, with systems that continue to try to do more for the driver. But with complexity comes higher risk for failure. Automotive manufacturers must take steps to mitigate these failures through collaboration and the use of advanced technologies. The ability to easily move information and attain real-time visibility into the supply chain and its manufacturing and quality processes is crucial in order to continue producing high-quality and safe vehicles.
Below are six tips to help the automotive industry improve quality and reduce recalls across the supply chain.
Abnormalities in parts or inefficiencies in manufacturing processes exist on any plant floor, but operators may hesitate to point them out for fear it will reflect poorly on the quality of their work. Instead, quality departments and executive management should create a culture where suggestions for improvements — large or small — are welcomed and praised. This not only will encourage employees to offer suggestions but also ultimately lead to improved manufacturing and quality based on the recommendations.
Relationships between original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and their suppliers have continued to change drastically, shifting from one manufacturer juggling multiple suppliers to a single supplier supporting multiple manufacturers. Even though this is a more efficient business model for manufacturers, it creates a scenario where issues with a single supplier affect multiple manufacturers and multiple part lines. Working closely with suppliers enables manufacturers to understand the supplier’s internal processes and offer ways to improve the quality of the component parts so they meet the manufacturer’s quality standards.
With a global supply chain, it becomes increasingly difficult to know what is happening at each facility or supplier. Utilizing leading technologies such as the cloud or mobile devices helps to connect the supply chain, making it possible for operators and inspectors within a manufacturer’s facility or the supplier to input data from anywhere using a mobile device. The data populate a centralized database for personnel to review and analyze while sending real-time notifications to management even when they are offsite.
Traditionally, manufacturers had to rely on a paper report and the word of their suppliers that the parts received met the OEM’s high-quality standards. Today, it’s not enough to trust this process. Manufacturers must have visibility into supplier operations to understand what’s occurring within the manufacturing processes, ensuring appropriate testing is being conducted and confirming the results meet the OEM’s standards. Real-time visibility created through cloud-based quality systems offers a complete view of supplier operations, removing the need to re-inspect incoming parts.
Data gathered in-process can offer a second tier of information or manufacturing intelligence that can be used to increase efficiency and quality across the enterprise and supply chain. Utilizing advanced data analysis software, it’s possible to compare sites or suppliers, identifying areas for improvement. If one facility is running an identical process significantly more efficiently than another, the information could be shared with the second site to enable process improvement. Extending this learning opportunity across a manufacturing environment helps to increase overall effectiveness and improve variation across operations.
Manufacturing intelligence enables the enterprise to drill down through manufacturing data from within the OEM business and the supply chain in order to identify when, where and how defective parts were made. If a product was returned within the warranty period because of a defective part, quality software can be used to identify whether the return was due to a supplier or material inconsistency. With the source of the issue identified, enterprises can put measures in place to prevent the same issue in the future.