Using Production Fit to reduce warranty claims

by Rob Oakland

We have grown used to modern cars being fairly reliable. The days of DIY maintenance are declining; engine management systems are becoming more sophisticated. We only lift the bonnet to fill up the washer bottle. The biggest driver over the last 20-30 years to improve car quality has been the adoption of Advanced Product Quality Planning (APQP) – an industry-wide approach to ensuring the end-to-end process from designing a car, in production, through to its delivery to the customer is planed with quality in mind.

Lean + APQP = Production Fit

We have combined our experience in lean and six sigma work with the APQP methodology and called it Production Fit.

As APQP has become established in the car industry it was gradually spread into other manufacturing sectors.  One sector closely related to cars is industrial equipment, often involving some aspect of power sources, electronic control systems and hydraulic or pneumatic movement.

A manufacturer of industrial equipment contacted us recently. They were increasing their range of products but were also getting a growing level of warranty claims – the design element of the products was being stretched too far, so quality was suffering.

The first things we did was stop the failure being shipped to customers by establishing a quality firewall. Much better to manage delivery times of working machine than handle a product return.

In parallel with stopping failure leave the factory, we worked on stopping making more failure. So, we introduced the client to Rapid Improvement Events to fix the significant quality issues.

After the first four months we reduced errors per product from 14 to 3.

Once those initial activities were securing sustainable improvements we got down to introducing an APQP approach that covered design, supply chain, assembly and distribution.  The client is now on the path of ongoing quality improvement and most importantly they have the tools and abilities in-house to keep that improvement going.

Creating sustainable improvement

That last aspect of our project, having in-house abilities, is probably the most rewarding aspect for me.  Oakland deliberately uses small teams, so that client staff are closely involved in the improvement work. Whilst many of our team have big-firm consultancy experience they thrive in using robust, yet adaptable approaches with client staff who are always busy people. It’s that high level of positive relationship makes my job enjoyable.

Full case studies of this and other examples are available here.