Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you’ve heard that we are in the midst of the largest safety recall in U.S. history. Over the past few years, Takata recalled 28.8 million “exploding” airbags. That number more than doubled in size earlier this year as the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced that it expanded the recall to include 35-40 million additional airbag inflators. Meanwhile, these defective airbags have led to at least 12 deaths and more than 100 injuries.
By: Doug Fair, Chief Operating Officer (COO), InfinityQS International, Inc.
However, Takata is not the only major manufacturer under scrutiny lately for recalls. If you look at news headlines on any given day, you are bound to read about a recall and its adverse effects. Just recently, Samsung came “under fire” for exploding batteries in its Galaxy Note 7 and had to issue a worldwide recall. This was followed closely by a recall of almost 3 million of its washing machines in the United States alone for excessive vibration and parts that spontaneously detach and cause broken jaws and shoulder injuries. In fact, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPFS) estimates that deaths, injuries, and property damage from consumer product incidents cost the nation more than $1 trillion annually. In addition, there are severe costs to the businesses involved in the recalls, as well as tarnished reputations and negative brand impacts.
Avoiding recalls is imperative for manufacturers, especially in terms of cost and maintaining a competitive advantage. By focusing on quality, manufacturers can ensure that production is effective, cost efficient, and defect free. To support these quality efforts, many organizations have invested in some form of technology. But, as manufacturers have opened, closed, merged, and expanded facilities over years, they have acquired a variety of different systems and equipment. These disparate and often antiquated systems prevent standardization and consistency across plants, and create communication difficulties among facilities.
Problems are exacerbated when data and analyses are provided after production and defects have already occurred. Even when recall-specific data have been analyzed and safeguards are put in place to prevent further problems, the damage has already been done. Although similar recalls may be averted in the future, relying on consumer feedback after production makes it impossible to prevent others or support timely decisions for defect prevention and process improvement.
To address these issues and more, quality must become an enterprise-wide objective, from the plant floor to the boardroom, and a priority throughout the manufacturing process. Centralized quality management promotes cooperative working relationships and communication within teams and across the organization. Advanced quality management systems compel standardization across facilities and create access to real-time data and intelligence, thereby preventing production delays and delivering complete quality records and traceability.
Once manufacturers adopt an enterprise-wide quality management solution, they can leverage it to extend their efforts into the supply chain, where the focus on quality is equally crucial. This is because many large manufacturers have become just assemblers of their own products, relying on vendors from across the globe to supply the manufactured parts needed to create their final product. By utilizing cloud-based technology, manufacturers can connect with their suppliers to ensure parts and components are of the highest quality before they even ship.
Going back to Takata’s case, it is apparent that a single manufacturer’s quality issue can adversely impact the entire supply chain. Because Takata supplies its airbags to automakers around the world, many OEMs unknowingly assembled vehicles with the defective airbags. As a result, 14 major automotive companies have since painstakingly recalled millions of vehicles in an effort to keep consumers safe. Just think: if the OEMs had been able to connect with Takata through a quality management platform, they might have prevented the recalls in the first place.
Fortunately, a growing number of manufacturers have begun seeing successes with cloud-based quality systems. For example, Lin Engineering, a U.S. manufacturer of hybrid step motors, is now monitoring global suppliers’ quality in real time. As result, the company is reducing defects, improving overall product quality, and better meeting customer requirements.
Furthermore, introducing enterprise-wide quality management initiatives across a manufacturer’s divisions and throughout a supplier base can dramatically improve global quality performance. First, an advanced technology solution can help manufacturers produce superior products at lower costs, while improving plant-to-plant consistency in manufacturing methods and results. Second, the ability to assess supplier quality in real time lessens dependence on oversight and auditing, freeing up quality resources to focus on strategic improvement initiatives. Finally, deploying quality systems to the supplier base allows for easy supplier-to-supplier comparisons, resulting in more accurate vendor evaluations that generate quality information for best vendor selection.
Having a strong quality strategy plays an integral role in meeting goals and achieving long-term business growth, while providing the flexibility to meet customers’ requirements. By offering an enterprise quality solution to vendors, companies are able to expand their quality strategies on a large scale and quickly pinpoint supplier quality problems before defective products are shipped. In addition, real-time data are shared and analyzed in a secure and timely manner, enabling critical manufacturing and supply chain decisions. Finally, by allowing suppliers and manufacturers to share quality-related data in real time, overall costs can be diminished and efficiencies dramatically enhanced across the value chain. By doing so, the goals of attaining better, less expensive and defect-free products can become a reality, and the dreaded and costly recall can become a thing of the past.
Doug is a seasoned quality professional with nearly 30 years of manufacturing, analytics, and statistical application experience. As Chief Operating Officer at InfinityQS®, Doug leverages this experience to drive the company’s overall operational performance. Before joining InfinityQS in 1997, Doug began his career at Boeing Aerospace and spent several years working as a quality systems consultant for a variety of Fortune 500 companies.