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Amoco Fabrics & Fibers: a quality journey of continuous improvement.

Amoco Fabrics & Fibers: A Quality Journey Of Continuous Improvement

As the nonwovens industry matures and the focus shifts to improving quality and developing on-line process monitoring and controls, all of the major roll goods suppliers are developing programs to safeguard their technical and marketing positions. The following is an example of one such program implemented at Amoco Fabrics & Fibers, Atlanta, GA, number 18 in the Nonwovens Industry rankings of the world's largest producers of nonwoven fabrics. The report is excerpted from a paper presented at the December, 1990 INDA Needlepunch Conference by Amoco's Duke Campbell and Penny Turner.

The process began back in 1984 when Bob Cadieux, president of Amoco Chemical, announced a major shift in company policy. He was convinced that if Amoco was going to remain competitive, it must be completely dedicated to the idea of continuous improvement of quality. He subscribed to the philosophies of Philip Crosby and began by sending several Amoco employees to Crosby College, where they were schooled in his basic principles and returned to train other management executives.

Basically, four "absolutes of quality" are the key concepts to the whole program. These are spelled out in the table on this page.

In addition, the Crosby Quality Improvement Process consists of 14 steps. These are:

1. Management commitment. Make it clear where management stands.

2. Formation of quality improvement teams. Teams should be established at each location or for each functional group. These teams run the quality improvement process and are usually chaired by the facility manager.

3. Quality measurement. Current or potential sources of nonconformance should be displayed in a manner that permits objective evaluation and is a basis for action.

4. Cost of quality. A system should be developed for assigning dollar values to the cost of doing things wrong or doing things over.

5. Quality awareness. Concern of personnel throughout the organization on the need for conformance and the adoption of the defect free product should be raised.

6. Corrective action. Tools and methods should be provided so that problems can be eliminated forever.

7. Zero defects planning. A day of celebration should be planned to launch the program at each facility.

8. Training. The amount of training needed by all employees should be determined and implemented.

9. Zero defects day. An awareness should be created in all employees that there has indeed been a change in the company. 10. Goal setting. Quality goals should be established throughout all levels of an organization. 11. Error-cause removal. A system should be implemented that will allow all employees to identify sources of error in their jobs. 12. Recognition. Systems to award those who participate actively in the process should be developed. 13. Quality councils. An arena for communication among the quality professionals within the organization should be established. 14. Do it over again.

Specific Development Areas

A steering committee, chaired by the president of Amoco, was formed to serve as the directing body for the organization. Each plant then set about establishing its quality improvement teams. As the process matured, several specific areas were targeted for improvement.

The first was statistical process control. As the quality improvement process progressed, it became apparent that something was lacking. Hourly employees were not participating on the level desired and it was realized that employees needed tools to take control of their jobs and assume decision-making roles on a daily basis. The answer was SPC.

A cross-functional group was assembled to develop a training program and seminars were held for management personnel. A corporate SPC coordinator was assigned at each location and, as a result, many significant improvements in quality at various Amoco plants have resulted.

For example, at the Hazlehurst, GA plant, the use of SPC helped reduce fiber add-on, resulting in significant cost savings. Control charts in one particular area showed a very unstable process, as well as one that consistently produced higher fiber weights than desired. A rigorous preventive maintenance program was established and operations were given control charts to help keep the process centered.

The Just-In-Time/Quick Change issue was another area addressed by the program. In 1988, the Hazlehurst plant realized that in order to remain competitive it must be able to respond faster to customer needs. In order to do this, however, it had to acquire the capability to run small batches of products rather than extensive runs. This meant high flexible manufacturing systems that could be changed almost instantaneously from one product to another were needed.

After some initial training in "quick change" techniques, a pilot project was selected in a key manufacturing area and the entire process was filmed. Through this exercise, the group was able to reduce set-up time from approximately three hours to only one hour, making the line much more flexible. Employees participating in the project received special recognition under Amoco's Special Recognition program.

The third area of concentration was supplier quality, a program that was started at Amoco in 1987 with the initiation of a corporate-driven Supplier Quality Program. The purpose of the program is to evaluate and solicit improvement from external suppliers.

The program has several phases. First, requirements are clearly defined with the supplier through a series of meetings. Second, data collection begins in an effort to measure supplier performance and this information is communicated to the supplier on a regular basis. Next, an on-site audit of the supplier's facility is conducted, results are communicated and corrective action is taken by the supplier. Finally, if all criteria have been successfully met, certification is awarded to the supplier. A maintenance program ensures that gains are not lost over time.

Finally, the Hazlehurst plant also began conducting internal audits in 1987. The purpose of these is to assure Amoco customers and management that quality systems are in place and correctly utilized. A report of findings is issued to the plant manager and each department head; each area must respond with a corrective action plan within 10 days.

The Road Ahead

Although Amoco has made great strides in implementing its program since its inception in 1984, there still remains a great deal to be done. The company helps determine future needs by means of a biannual quality awareness survey. Each employee must complete a survey to determine the general mindset of the company regarding several issues, including product quality, training, conformance to requirements, management commitment, supplier quality, employee involvement, equipment and work group performance.

An area being currently pursued at Amoco is ISO 9000 certification. As the company moves towards the 1992 implementation date, it is working towards the certification for all subsidiaries. A special task force has selected a pilot plant to begin implementation.

Finally, the company is also investigating self-directed work teams. Due to the complexity of this process, it is expected to move slowly; however, despite the complex implementation these teams have shown promising results in other Amoco subsidiaries and other companies.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Rodman Publications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:information on Amoco Fabrics and Fibers Co. progress in developing quality in technology and marketing
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Date:Mar 1, 1991
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