Interview with GWR’s Director of Quality
How did you acquire your expertise in Quality Systems for automotive manufacturing?
I finished with the military service in 1975, and started working for Renault the first day they began putting 3-point seat belts in the Renault 8, which they exported all over Europe. So I was immediately involved with seat belts. The next vehicle launch was the Renault R5, which was the first Renault car produced in Spain with a seat belt with retractors. For the Renault R-19, where Renault started putting seat belts in the front and back seats, my main role was to review the quality of seat belts supplied from our main supplier, Autoliv. I would audit the factories of Autoliv to confirm they met the high quality standards for Renault. I was also responsible for analyzing the seat belts from Autoliv, to confirm they met our standards and the specifications for each car.
I became heavily engrained in all of Renault’s Quality Processes, and making sure the components from our suppliers and our product met the highest standards. I became responsible for controlling the quality for seat belts, door hinges, all the glass parts for the cars, and the filters for air, oil, and gas. I worked with those suppliers on warrantied product, and we implemented a process for controlling all rejected products shipped to our factories. Renault is known for their intense focus on quality, and I learned the best systems early in my career.
How did the Quality Systems change over time?
The quality systems evolved and our processes became very refined, resulting in a significant drop in defects. In an increased effort to reduce quality problems, we began to audit the suppliers of our suppliers. Before the 1990’s, Renault didn’t measure quality with PPMs (parts per millions), we measured component problems per 1000 pieces, and our objective was 15/1000. When we moved to PPMs later in the 1990s, our goal was less than 200per Million. So there was significant improvement as a result of the new quality processes.
Tell us about your work with AlliedSignal.
When I was working at Renault we would rank our suppliers with a grade of either “A,” “B,” or “C.” “A” suppliers were the top suppliers, “B” suppliers were average, and “C” suppliers would be replaced. AlliedSignal supplied Renault, and at the time was a “B” supplier. A company needed to be an “A” supplier in order to be awarded new contracts. Because AlliedSignal wanted to supply to more Renault factories, they needed the “A” rating. Therefore they hired me to be their Director of Quality, which meant I was in charge of all quality for seat belts for AlliedSignal, a Global company. I handled all quality issues from suppliers, customers, and all regulation approval testing. TRW, Takata and AlliedSignal were all competing at the time to be the second largest seat belt supplier in Europe behind Autoliv. We made significant improvements in our productivity and quality, increasing our competitiveness. We became an “A” supplier for Renault resulting in more contracts with additional factories. We were supplying to Ford, and we were also able to acquire General Motors as a customer, and I handled that relationship. Allied Signal became the second largest seat belt manufacturer in Europe.
Our quality and productivity increased dramatically. We started forming these work groups to focus on quality, and implemented six sigma. One of our plants in Spain was producing over 15,000 seat belts per day with 3 shifts. One of the automated lines could produce 7,000 belts per shift, and 3,020 buckles per shift. The average productivity rates of all of our lines was an incredible 99.97%. This meant we had essentially no quality problems, no supplier problems, our employees people were working efficiently, and no downtime for the machines (the machines were working over 99% of time). One year we reached zero parts per million for General Motors, and we were supplying to GM plants in Germany, Spain, and England.
You have experience working for just-in-time suppliers to the Volkswagen group?
I am a certified auditor for Volkswagen suppliers, and have spent many years helping automotive manufacturers that supply to Volkswagen. For one company, I handled all of their quality processes, and helped them with their FMEA for their plant in Mexico. Because I am familiar with the Volkswagen requirements and auditing processes, we made sure all the processes were in place for them to pass the Volkswagen audit. Audi and Volkswagen are known for having the highest safety quality standards; Renault and PSA have the highest reputation for quality of appearance. I am familiar with both and have a comprehensive view of the quality requirements of the automotive industry.
What are your goals with GWR?
Our goal is to reach zero PPMs. GWR has a great quality system, which I have strengthened quite a bit. As Director of Quality I oversee all their quality processes. GWR started producing for Suzuki directly for their SUVs (Samurai & Vitara). They were producing 200-300 seat belts per day for Suzuki, and this wouldn’t have been possible without the Quality Program that was implemented. GWR currently supplies seat belts for many OEMs, and I am proud to see that we have built a Quality Program at GWR that satisfies the strict demands of leading seat and vehicle manufacturers.