“We really needed to focus on quality. It’s in our name, but the rules have changed.”
The “rules” referred to by Jo Ellen Dunbar, vice president of Quality Metal Products (QMP), involve requirements that many multi-nationals are placing on their key suppliers to substantially reduce the number of defective parts. As a tier-one producer of engine components for the construction equipment industry, Quality Metal Products had to dramatically improve delivered quality. Failure to do so would result in lost business from its principal customer and limit the company’s ability to compete for new work.
“We’re in a business in which zero defects is the expectation,” said Dunbar. “It’s a challenge for a small company like ours, but we knew we had to change.”
Dunbar and her team started their quality transformation journey by engaging IMEC’s continuous improvement and technology specialists. A challenge with the company’s Production Part Approval Process (PPAP) was solved by integrating ordering data into their manufacturing information system, accelerating the ability to respond to a purchase order and expedite shipments.
IMEC also conducted Advance Product Quality Planning training to help QMP’s team ensure that parts could be manufactured to a drawn specification. Root cause and process control methods were deployed to identify sources of quality problems and eliminate variance at the source. Dunbar’s team created lighted process boards with instructions and placed them close to operator work cells. Every associate received upgraded training in blueprint reading, geometric dimension and tolerance, and gauging.
Concurrently, the company worked with IMEC and its main customer to map its value streams and eliminate wasted, non-value steps. To rationalize its 8,000 part numbers, QMP developed a wireless supermarket replenishment system to move product in sequence and keep inventories level.
The results have been impressive. Dunbar reports a parts-per-million defect rate of 187, down from 3,000 in early 2007. The company is operating at 100-percent PPAP delivery and delivering on-time 95.6 percent for 22 customer facilities. Even more important, the foundation is in place to sustain these improvements over time.
“Our customer is ecstatic and our employees are energized,” said Dunbar. “IMEC provided us with the capabilities to do this on our own.” iBi