Quality Matters: Learning from the Turnaround in the U.S. Auto Industry
For decades, the U.S. auto industry lagged behind foreign brands in quality surveys, until U.S. autos took over the first place slot in 2010 for the first time in 24 years in the annual survey of owners of new cars and trucks conducted by J.D. Power and Associates. Given that the U.S. automakers were also contending with one of the largest recessions on record, their quality gains are even more remarkable.
What has made the difference? While quality is a highly complex subject, it is clear that U.S. automakers have made a commitment to quality that extends to the smallest detail in the manufacturing process -- down to the metal stampings that go into many automotive parts.
Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA) Catches Failures Before They Happen
So how do automakers ensure top quality? After all, the J.D Power survey results are based on reports of problems by owners of new cars and trucks. So one important way is by focusing on what might go wrong and working to prevent it through a method known as Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA).
Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA) is the process used to identify possible failures in design, manufacturing and assembly of a product or part. Failure modes refer to the ways that a product might fail and its probability, and effects analysis refers to the potential consequences. The aim is to reduce or eliminate failures, starting with the most critical.
For example, an automaker would rank the severity of failure on a scale from 1 to 10, reflecting the impact on the driver. If a seat belt or an air bag were to fail in an accident, the consequences could be deadly, ranking #10 in severity. In contrast, if the radio failed to work, the consequences would be more annoying than life threatening, with a ranking much lower down the severity scale.
Metal Stamping Companies Apply FMEA to Stamping Processes
According to ASQ’s The Quality Toolbox, FMEA applies to the entire lifespan of a product: “Ideally, FMEA begins during the earliest conceptual stages of design and continues throughout the life of the product or service.”
What does this mean for metal stamping companies? Metal stamping companies must incorporate FMEA in their own internal processes as well. The benefits of FMEA extend beyond just the automotive industry. FMEA is a proactive tool for developing reliable processes that should be applied to all metal stamping projects, regardless of industry.
When hiring a metal stamping company, project managers should insist they complete a Process FMEA that rates what could go wrong in the metal stamping and secondary processes and identify ways to reduce the probability of failure.
FMEA Benefits Extend Beyond Quality
Not only is FMEA effective in ensuring quality in manufacturing, it can also contribute to profitability. Manufacturing will cost less if done right the first time. And, of course, consumers will react positively to high-quality products which goes a long way in ensuring customer satisfaction.
This article is the latest in our Precision Metal Stamping Quality Control series. Be sure to read our previously posted articles:
- Why Risk Poor Precision Metal Stamping Quality? Automotive Industry Averts Risk with APQP.
- Want consistent precision metal stamping quality? Insist on SPC.
- Precsion Metal Stamping Quality -- Acronyms You've Got to Know.