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Problem solving

Who should the 8D sign off?

The customer or IATF16949 audit outcome: the problem-solving process is not effective, not according to the customer requirements, or you face re-occurred failures.

I have seen two typical reactions to such a non-conformance:

  • organize training for the whole team
    • HR will get the task, and they will send the team to outside or in-house training.

Job well done. The issue is close, right? (No, not at all as I already wrote about it in this separate article.)

  • The Quality Manager needs to sign the 8D before closing.

Unfortunately, this usually will not save the world, but we can have the next wildcard if this happens:

  • the  Plant Manager will also review and sign the reports before sending them out to the customer.

Why do we expect it will be an efficient solution to prevent insufficient 8D reports landing at the customer?

What will change from this action?

Let’s assume that the next level managers are really quality professionals and know what they should look for.  (I think it is not evident – and not a requirement –  that the next level manager will have the professional knowledge to identify the reports’ issues.)

If this is the case, we will still have the timing issue – it is not easy to find free time with a plant manager to review 8D reports. This can have a negative impact on our response time to the customer, which can initiate the next negative evaluation.

Imagine a big organization with many customer issues.  How long will the manager have the time and patience to review each case deeply?

What can we solve with the supervisor’s advance review?

In a short time, it can help.

We can detect obvious unlogic issues, no technical solutions.

We can also expect that the engineers will make more precise reports because they do not want to confront their managers. They try to avoid unpleasant moments. This positive effect will last as long as the manager will have the time and passion for closing reviews.

Is it not showing a lack of trust towards our colleague? How long do we plan to micromanage our colleagues?

Should we not understand the real root-cause behind the weak reports?

How about our Quality Management System (QMS)?

We have to understand the systematic root-cause.

What is the exact cause of insufficient reports?

Are we sure that it can only be a competence issue?

If so, which competence should be exactly improved? How exactly can be improved – besides the joker “send them for training!”?

How was the individual competence assessed before, and which actions were defined to improve?

Why did we not detect it?

How is it possible that the customer or the auditor highlights the incomplete 8Ds for us?

There are so many questions we need to ask ourselves.

8D reports signed off by managers can help in a short time, but that is not a sustainable solution.

Do not stop with simple answers without understanding the systematic issues behind.

As always, think in system with Pro Automotive.

If you are interested in reading articles about automotive quality management topics, best practices, case studies, follow Pro Automotive.

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Problem solving

How to put your organization into escalation?

Many years ago, I continued my career as a customer quality engineer at a new company.

I wanted to show my abilities to the team to prove that I am a quality professional.

I did not have to wait too long. We received a new quality claim from the customer on Friday afternoon (as always).

⁃ Yes! I can do that! – that was my first thought.

The issue did not seem too complicated; one small part has not been properly fixed.

Among other containment actions, we immediately implemented some extra operations to make sure the parts are OK.

We discussed as a team; the defined actions were appropriate and safe.

Everyone thought we are finished until the claimed part arrived, and the root cause analysis can be continued.

But I raised the following question:

Is there a similar part for the customer where such an issue could happen?

⁃ Well, yes. – answered the process engineer. But that produced at a different line, that is another application, but the fixation method is similar.

⁃ Ok, in this case, the similar containment actions should be implemented as well. Let’s not wait until there would be the same type of claim from the customer. Use the lessons learned!

The team was not too happy, especially on Friday afternoon, but they accepted my decision.

Finally, all actions have been implemented for the other part number as well.

At the end of next week, the defected part arrived, root causes have been defined, corrective actions were scheduled, everything seemed to be normal.

Certainly, the containment actions remained in place till the final implementation and validation of the corrective actions.

Everything went smoothly till I have received an angry e-mail from the customer about a claim with the other application, but it affected more parts.

No, it was not the same improper fixation issue. That was a totally different function problem.

Due to that claim, we have received the escalation letter…

This happened in my first month, customer escalation, I had to start organizing my trip to present what happened.

Well, that was not the perfect opportunity for introducing myself, which I imagined before.” Warm” welcome could be expected.

I took that case very seriously. I organized 8D meetings by the line, involved all experts, including the operators, but we could not understand the root cause for occurrence.

Other containments were in place; therefore, the customer was protected from more failed parts, but it was not enough because we still found occasionally NOK parts.

Escape was clear, but how it occurred?

The team performed lots of experiments based on the fishbone analysis, but we did not get closer.

I addressed different operators from different shifts and spent enormous time on the shop floor, but still no success for weeks.

One day I got lucky.

I was on the shop floor again, chatting with the operator, but continuously watching what and how she was doing.

Suddenly, I recognized that one assembly tool got slipped while she was doing the extra operation I asked a long time before due to the different claim about the other part number.

The tool hit a sensitive part, and the set function was lost.

Yes!!!

We did some trials, verified in the lab, and the failure has been successfully reproduced.

Now we could get out of the escalation after the risk has been eliminated by a robust action.

Several months later, I had to explain the whole story to the ISO/TS16949 auditor. We went to the line where he understood everything.

I will never forget what his comment was.

⁃ You did a good job. But I recommend that next time you use the PFMEA better.

What happened?

We introduced an action as a lesson learned to a different product without proper risk assessment.

The other product was smaller. There was less space for the assembly tool, which increased the risk of slipping the tool. The tool hit a sensitive part, and the already verified function got misadjusted.

Do not expect that one proven effective action will have the same efficiency on other products as well, even if they have many similarities. (And make sure the final test is really the final test.)

Lessons Learned?

You can make a mistake if you do not perform proper risk assessment while you implement lessons learned.

How can you even make a bigger mistake?

If you do not apply lessons learned at all.

As always, think in system with Pro Automotive.

If you are interested in reading articles about automotive quality management topics, best practices, case studies, follow Pro Automotive.

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IATF

Know the standard from your heart! (?)

  • Have you already read the standard from the first page till the end? – asked me the manager who was responsible for the Quality Management System.
  • Well…not all pages…- I admitted.
  • Then go away and come back when you did! -he replied. – I will not talk to you before.

Wow, what a rude guy -I thought, but I did not express my feelings.

I recently joined the company as a customer quality engineer and got a list of managers I need to talk as part of my onboarding process.

The” standard” he meant was the ISO/TS16949; now, it is replaced by IATF16949.

I thought he was impolite, and he could be more helpful to a new guy, but anyway, I followed his advice and read through the standard.

For many years I thought he was right – rude, but right. He was sick of explaining everything many times.

Ten years later, I found myself in the same position, responsible for the Quality Management System (QMS).

As it was a greenfield project, the task was also to build the QMS from scratch.

When we worked on the onboarding system, I remembered this unpleasant memory again.

Is it really a fair expectation that an engineer who talks to customers is familiar with the whole IATF 16949? Is it a requirement?

It definitely makes sense, and it is an advantage for sure.

But was this the right answer from the manager?

I doubt it.

His answer just proved that there were some rooms for the QMS improvement.

Why?

  1. Roles and responsibilities – competence issue

What were the requirements for my position, were they appropriately defined? Was the ISO/TS16949 described as a must?

  • Lack of assessment of my competence against the requirement and appropriate action plan.

If the position required that knowledge, why was then not a lack of competence identified and relevant actions defined?

Who should be an expert on the standard? Should all engineers read the norm at home when they can not feel asleep? (They will probably fall asleep in 3 minutes.)

How will they know which part of it relevant’s their job? How can they apply what they learned in their daily work?

There is a better answer.

Engineers do not need to be an expert on the IATF16949. They do not need to know that from their heart.

It is our (who are responsible for the QMS) duty to make sure that the internal procedures are aligned with the standard requirements.

Our duty is that the onboarding system is robust enough and includes all internal procedures (documented processes) necessary to perform the specific job. This is what we should focus on.

Do not expect that everyone knows the standard from their heart.

Have robust QMS, which ensures that our daily work is aligned with the expectations from the norm.

As always, think in system with Pro Automotive.

If you are interested in reading articles about automotive quality management topics, best practices, case studies, follow Pro Automotive.

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Problem solving

Speak the quality language!

  • This is bullshit! – shouted the customer and suddenly caught the ashtray from the table and dropped it towards my colleague. The massive object hit the head of the guy. Silence spread over the room.

This story happened a long time ago. I traveled to the Far-East to present our actions to the OEM customer. That time I did not understand what happened, how it could go so wrong.

No question, physical aggression is not acceptable, not even from the customer. However, this memory accompanied me over the years.

Why did not the customer understand us? How could he not see that we were explaining the real cause and the effective corrective action?

Indeed, the English could be an issue as none of us was a native speaker. But that does not explain everything.

The first reaction, which lasted several years: the customer did not have the patience to understand us, probably he had no idea about our manufacturing process.

Now I have a different opinion.

I still believe that the customer was rude and behaved unacceptably.

We can not change such people. However, we can change our communication.

I realized that as a quality expert, I only might speak about facts supported by data.

We have to rule out all emotions from our presentations about quality issues and the solutions.

Our intention should be to prove the direct connection between the root cause and the rejected part.

Saying that the root cause is XXX is not enough – we must have evidence about it, the best if we can reproduce the failure. Same about the corrective actions. Have a study behind the correction, which proves its effectiveness.

Use well-known quality tools, e.g., 5Why analysis (for occurrence, escape, and the system as well), fishbone but with verifications behind, capability analysis, MSA studies, etc.

I had customers from the USA, Mexico, Brazil, China, India, South Korea, and many European countries. They behave differently. They have their communication style, English knowledge, familiarity with the process, and product.

Many of them will shout first over the phone, they will explain how stupid and incompetent you, as a supplier are.

Our target should be to improve the relationships with the customer, therefore we must eliminate all emotions and unnecessary arguments without facts, which are not based on data.

They all speak the quality language. Customers will have their confidence in you and your implemented actions if you use the quality tools properly.

Do not try to change the customer. Change your communication.

As always, think in system with Pro Automotive.

If you are interested in reading articles about automotive quality management topics, best practices, case studies, follow Pro Automotive.

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Training

Is classroom quality training efficient for engineers?

The root-cause analysis outcome for system issues is lack of competence.

Corrective action: Training – of course!

How many times have you met with this symptom?

Some automotive core-tools competences for some engineers are missing. The obvious solution: send them for training!

What is next?

HR got the task to organize training about automotive quality topics, like APQP, PPAP, 8D, FMEA, MSA, etc.

Simple, right?

The best thing is that once the training is ordered, there is no such difference if 10 or 15 guys participate. Let’s send some technicians, other engineers, internal auditors, whoever has some time can participate. More is just better.

The training is held by a qualified expert (a good chance that he did not work in a production plant for ten years or more), and he/she mainly explains the things which are already described in the released handbooks/standards. OK, they can also answer questions, present it more deeply.

Due to important meetings, production issues, and phone conferences, many participants walk in and out during the day.

Final result: everyone passed the test, the same satisfaction feeling for the different persons:

  • HR: Training finished, job well done!
  • Managers: Training finished – no more excuse, let’s work!
  • Quality system auditors: There was training, the competence is now improved! Great evidence for future audits!
  • 8D team: the systematic issue is corrected, the claim can be closed now!

Everyone is happy….or…almost everyone.

How about the engineer?

Even he could not participate during the whole time, some chapters missed, but finally, he received the certification – that is good, as it can be useful for the next job, it can be listed in the CV as well.

Did it make any sense? Will he understand the reasons behind, will he see the whole picture?

I doubt that.

Why do we fool ourselves and address competence issues by organizing classroom training about generic, well-documented quality topics? Just because everyone does the same? Or because the auditors look for evidence?

Has anyone really looked at which part of competence is missing for the engineer? Not as general, but specifically.

Based on my seventeen years of experience, such classroom training are just not efficient.

I know I will be criticized – especially by some training institutions.

Indeed, there are circumstances when they can be useful if the intention is to get a general description or some generic explanation for freshly graduated engineers. However, often they are not only used for such a purpose. They are used because we choose the most straightforward answer for improving competence without considering other solutions.

Why is that year after years, series of same training held at the same company, most of the time for the same audience? Same actions, same results.

Shouldn’t we do something different?

A much better solution to find an experienced mentor for the engineer who supports him/her during real challenges while he solves real issues.

Such a mentor can be internal or external, but he must have excellent practical knowledge and skill and willingness to transfer his knowledge.

I already described that in detail in my other article: Train your own team! , but here are some other examples.

  • Not fully understand MSA Gage R&R? Help him to manage a full study alone. Support him with the planning, execution, and interpretation of the result.
  • Systematic root cause analysis issue? Explain to him the background and do the fishbone analysis together with the team. Do not let them simply rule out possibilities, but show them the proper way of verification.
  • FMEAs have nothing to do with reality? Find a mentor for the team, do the studies together.

Bad news: it will not be finished in 2 days, like classic classroom training with an external trainer. Jolly joker solutions do not work in real life.

Such a process requires much longer time, months, half a year, or more.

On the other hand, the engineer will finally have a skill. The change can not be observed from one day to another.

But when you look back, you will see a different work quality, and you will see a motivated person who is eager to learn and who has his day by day, issue by issue successes.

Assess the needs and define necessary actions individually and find the right mentor for your colleagues.

As always, think in system with Pro Automotive.

If you are interested in reading articles about automotive quality management topics, best practices, case studies, follow Pro Automotive.

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Warranty management

Automotive warranty management – 8 tips to save money

Warranty management is usually not in focus at the manufacturing location – as long as the received monthly debits are within a certain acceptable limit.

When it is over a limit, generally it is too late to control or requires an enormous effort to minimize the risk.

We should always keep in mind that our product performance in the field has a huge impact on customer satisfaction. Every claim means a faulty part from a vehicle, the car must be taken back to the service to repair.

Here are some tips about the focus areas of a proper warranty management process.

  1. Be aware of customer specific requirements

Sounds easy, right?

Based on my auditor experience, many automotive suppliers are not fully aware of all details of these requirements.

Each OEM has its own additional customer specific requirements which describe how the warranty management works and what are their expectations.

Study these requirements carefully and make sure that the internal processes are fully aligned with them, including the NTF (no trouble found) process.

2. Plan the warranty analysis process

Supplier needs to be prepared for warranty analysis before SOP according to VDA Field Failure Analysis booklet.

Yes, before SOP. This means that the exact analysis process for each newly developed product needs to be defined during APQP before the part is used in vehicle series production.

3. Collect and analyze the data from the customer

OEMs are continuously providing comprehensive data about the rejected parts, including vehicle data, mileage, failure code, symptom, etc.

Use these data to better understand patterns, identify lifetime issues, predictions for the future failing rate / overall risk.

4. Continuously analyze rejected parts from the field

It is the best interest of the supplier to monitor the warranty performance continuously, which assure that new issues are identified and solved as quickly as possible.

The outcome of the analysis is the basis for Technical Factor (TF) agreements with the customer, which means an agreement about the percentage of the warranty overall cost which needs to be covered by the supplier.

5. Keep the deadlines

Simple advice, but as an auditor, I have experienced it many times that suppliers were debited just because the given deadline was not kept.

Even if the outcome of the final analysis was that the supplier is not responsible, if it is over a certain deadline, the debit will come.

6. Verify debit notes and the data behind

Sounds obvious again, but my experience shows it worth to mentioning.

Do not accept the debit notes without fully understand the data behind them. Customers are making mistakes too – as the suppliers do as well.

Take the time to review the data and request a modification if something is not OK.

7. Continuous improvement

Warranty management is part of the continuous improvement process. Use the lessons learned for future product and process improvements.

Keep in mind, APQP Phase 1 includes review of historical warranty and quality information.

8. Audit your field failure analysis process

Do not learn from your mistakes. Detect any lack of fulfillment of the requirements by conducting Field Failure analysis audits.

VDA Field Failure Analysis & Audit standard describes a uniform evaluation method.

The audit for the field failure analysis is an independent audit standard based on the specific requirements of the field failure analysis process.

VDA 6.3 process auditors can perform the audit if they have professional skills in the field failure analysis process as well.

Look for an experienced auditor, review the field failure analysis to identify and correct issues on time.

As always, think in system with Pro Automotive.

If you are interested in reading articles about automotive quality management topics, best practices, case studies, follow Pro Automotive.

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Training

Train your own team!

Several years ago, as a quality manager, I found myself in a situation that I had to make a tough decision. I quickly needed to build up my customer quality engineering team due to responsibility changes within the organization.

I had two choices:

  • hire experienced quality engineers as quickly as possible
  • choose internal candidates without any experience within the customer quality field

I made several interviews, met some “quality stars” from outside who had lots of confidence, but I realized that they also had lack of technical knowledge as well.

Just because someone worked as quality engineers for years, unfortunately it does not necessarily mean they have the knowledge which is required for the task and the personality which is needed for the team.

Finally, I recognized that anyway I need to train my colleagues a lot and in mid term, it is much more important to have team members who are eager to learn and who are fitting into the team.

I decided to choose internal candidates who really wanted to learn and convinced them to take this challenge.

I personally made several trainings for them, focusing on problem solving and Core Tools, but only which were appropriate for them.

The best method to train your employees is to let them work on challenges – learning by doing.

When the first quality claim arrived (certainly on Friday afternoon – as always…), I took the lead in the claim handling and explained all steps and the reasons behind, I led the customer communication.

But they got small tasks within the claim handling process which they were able to solve.

From time to time they got more and more responsibility and they were able to manage it better and better.

Half a year later they were working independently, but they always came to me for advice if they needed, explained what they were planning, and weekly we reviewed the risks and the difficulties together. They were motivated and their skills improved a lot. Now one of them is working as a Quality Manager.

What else could be more motivating for a leader than to support candidates from the organization to develop themselves?

As always, think in system with Pro Automotive.

If you are interested in reading articles about automotive quality management topics, best practices, case studies, follow Pro Automotive.

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IATF

Before the FIRE starts – Control Plan with additional referenced parameter lists

  • What is the revision date of this CP? – I asked the process engineer when I was performing a VDA 6.3 process audit at an automotive supplier.
  • Almost one year ago – the engineer replied and showed me the revision date of the document.
  • Was there any change in the process in the meantime? – I asked him again.
  • Nope – he replied immediately.
  • How about this machine parameter list? Which version is this? – I turned to him again.
  • Last update happened one week ago – the engineer said and proudly showed the revision list of the parameter list.

Finally it turns out that there were some changes in the process, but the CP has not been revised as “only” the referenced documents were updated. “Certainly” there was no change management activity, customer was not involved and by the way, the currently set parameters were not aligned with the defined parameters.

Typical solution at the automotive suppliers that there is a nice CP, several pages, contains mainly only product characteristics.

If someone takes a closer look, it is very difficult to find any process parameters in the document, but there are some reference documents linked to some machines, which are called as parameter lists.

These describes list of process parameters which need to be set to achieve the desired result: the product characteristics.

  • Is it the right thing to do?

From auditor point of view, I can not state that this is against the described requirements within the APQP/CP booklet or against any of the customer requirements as long as these referenced documents are part of the documentation system and protected and handled properly.

  • So why would this cause any issue?

Based on my experience, this is a method or the cause for the organizations to hide or make (without even recognizing) process parameter changes.

  • Oh, that is not always bad… Customer will not ask unpleasant questions, will not request unwanted documentations, samplings… who could wish more?

Not really:

  • It encourages line technicians, maintenance guys, process engineers to change process parameters without proper risk analysis whenever there is some problem in the process or with the products. Instead of proper root cause analysis, the process might be changed to the NOK parts.
    • The CP revision history will not even include such changes as only referenced documents has been revised.
    • Unauthorized process change could lead to escalation at the customer.
    • Great risk for customer quality claim, impact on lifetime.
  • Why is it a problem of changing some process parameters when the significant characteristics of the parts are checked anyway 100%? We are sure that the parts fulfill its dimension specification.

I was faced several times with similar questions in the past.

The reason is that the process parameters have been verified and approved by the organization and by the customer within the PPAP activity.

It has been stated and proved that the described controls (process and product characteristics) are appropriate to produce parts which meet the customer requirements.

If any of these parameters are changed (out of the specified range), risk analysis regarding the impact of the change needs to be performed according to the customer requirements.

Within change management process, supplier needs to demonstrate that the modified process will also produce OK parts, customer notification or approval might be needed in prior the change is implemented.

I would encourage all quality managers and the quality engineers to review the CPs and verify if the process parameters are listed properly. It is better to list all process parameters directly in the CP.

As always, think in system with Pro Automotive.

If you are interested reading articles about automotive quality management topics, best practices, case studies, follow Pro Automotive.

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Problem solving

Quality engineer in new position – too busy to learn?

— Nobody ever did similar thing here before. – I was told by a surprised operator when I showed up in working clothes, ready for working on the production line.

–I just would like to learn from you. – I answered.

I took the opportunity in the first week at the new company when usually there are fewer distractions.

I went to the production line to work on the stations which belonged to my responsibility.

I was trained by the working operators, spent at least 2-3 hours on each station. The next day the same.

How does it usually go when a new quality engineer is hired by a company?

The first week: get familiar with the company, the colleagues, someone will introduce the process by walking and stopping by the stations while operators are producing parts.

From next week: meetings, new problems, meetings, and finally meetings again. In the meantime, he/she updates some work instructions, plan some process modifications, and explain the solutions to the customers.

Unfortunately, the engineer is too busy to review existing procedures, but that is not so important as he/she is an experienced engineer…

How can we do it better?

Is it really the right approach? Who is responsible for such a poor onboarding, the company or the individual?

What I did in my last 15 years: did what the operators had to do to produce the parts.

The benefits of working on the line as an engineer:

  • get to know some operators personally
  • understand
    • the process steps,
    • the connections between workstations,
    • the used company phrases
    • the applied controls
    • the difficulty of the work

I gained so much from such a habit in the past:

  • the operators felt that we were equals as I did not keep the usual distance with them
    • I experienced some anomalies in the process which made the operators’ life difficult – with some quick fix, they sensed that they could count on my support
    • they turned to me later when they experienced any special issue, or contradiction in the work instruction, improvement possibilities…
  • during customer issues, I immediately had an idea where the issue could occur,
  • I was confident about my process knowledge in front of the customer during audits

Certainly, with such a method, you will not immediately become an expert of the process, but you make an important huge step to better understand it.

What is more, you will establish open communication and trust with the colleagues on the shop floor.

We do not need to blame the onboarding system at the company and therefore miss such a great opportunity, but we can be proactive and do the first step to improve our own onboarding.

When it is done, we can propose an onboarding system improvement – but we should never forget that we are also responsible for our own learnings, not only HR or our managers.

Do not miss such a great opportunity to learn about the process – and about the colleagues on the shop floor. Think in system.

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