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Chrysler's cranking up quality.

Chrysler Group wants the quality of its cars and trucks to be at least as good as any other vehicle manufacturer by '07, so as part of the push to improve its already-improving quality, it has initiated a program--for its suppliers. As Chrysler's Stephen Walukas, vp, Supplier Quality, explains, the company is receiving 60,000 different parts every day from a vast network of global suppliers, which represent over 70% of the parts used in the vehicles: "The supply base plays a huge part in our overall success."

The program, "Supplier Black Belt," is a variant of the program that's used inside the company. It's described by Walukas as "a technical approach to solving problems, both from a proactive preventive nature to a reactive nature." This "tool-box approach" was initiated within Chrysler Group in 1999 and has been offered to key suppliers since December 2002. So far, 23 suppliers have participated. Walukas points out that the companies they are working with now are those that provide systems or complex assemblies, rather than discrete parts. He explains that not only do those suppliers have a bigger effect on vehicle quality, but that because there are a limited number of resources for training within the Chrysler Group, they have to be selective. However, they are planning to enroll 40 participants in '04. Will this get to the point where a supplier might need to have Chrysler-certified black belt training? Walukas says that he's thinking about it.

Internally, they've trained over 1,000 employees. This has resulted, Walukas says, in cost avoidance of "well over $100-million per year." As for the 23 supplier companies, Walukas adds that within the last eight months, they've had over $29-million in cost avoidance (in the context of such things as productivity improvement, scrap reduction, warranty reduction).

One of the participants is Siemens VOO Automotive. According to Roberts Abele, director of Quality there, a big challenge that that company faces is assuring quality in product launches because 80% of the company's products are less than three years old, and they are designing and developing in 130 locations around the world. This means a common approach is essential. Before signing on to the Chrysler program, Siemens VOO Automotive was undertaking its own quality program, one that was based on program management, "zero-tolerance for defects" quality, and customer quality. "The Black Belt Program was a perfect match for us," he said. One of the reasons is because it is a toolbox, it is based on several approaches, including Kepner-Tregoe, Shanin, and Six Sigma, not just one. It isn't an ala cart approach, but, he explains, one that is based on a structure, with each of the tools deployed as and when needed.

"One of the things that happens in any manufacturing environment," says Joseph M. Krall, vp, Quality and CIP, Chassis Div., Robert Bosch Corp. Automotive Group, an organization that has Chrysler-certified Black Belt participants, "is that you have an issue and you're trying to find root cause. You have five engineers in the room, you've got seven different possibilities of what's wrong, everybody has the answer and a lot of waste in terms of energy and experimentation occurs." The methodology helps avoid that, he says.

"We use the same methodology, same terminology, speaking the same language, and are all wanting to get to the root cause and corrective action," says Walukas. Speaking of problems, he says, "In our world, collectively, it ends up being a DaimlerChrysler manufacturing problem, DaimlerChrysler engineering problem, or a supplier supplier-quality problem. We're trying to get out of that binning, that finger pointing, and quite frankly just letting the data speak, and whatever the issue is, we resolve it." The goal--improved quality--is one that's shared by all concerned.--GSV
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Title Annotation:WIP
Publication:Automotive Design & Production
Date:Jan 1, 2004
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