DEARBORN - The Ford Production System (FPS) defines the way that Ford operates within all of its manufacturing facilities throughout the world. It serves as an umbrella organization for seven integrated operating systems: safety, quality, delivery, cost, people, maintenance and environment.
Quality is the most experienced of all the operating systems, and it also is the most visible to the customer, according to John Fleming, executive vice president, Global Manufacturing and Labor Affairs.
“All of the operating systems are important, but truthfully, quality is the one that the customer sees. Sometimes it is perceived quality and sometimes it is physical quality – and that’s what will bring the customer back,” said Fleming. “It’s the promise that we make that if you buy a car from us it will be the very best that we know, and we believe it will be the very best in the world. Making the promise is one thing, but delivering it is critical.”
To deliver on that promise, the team responsible for the Quality Operating System (QOS) has been working diligently to establish global standards for the way the quality process operates in Manufacturing and for what happens at the plant when things go wrong.
Over the last year, as FPS has evolved into a truly global, well-defined system, adherence to those standards has become much more rigorous – resulting in huge quality benefits, says Adrian Vido, director, Global Manufacturing Quality.
“In the past, although the FPS umbrella was in place, different regions around the world would still operate in different ways,” he said. “Now, not only is QOS a standard within the umbrella but the umbrella now is very thoroughly standardized and the expectations of competency and adherence to FPS are standard.”
At Ford, quality is defined by the customer.
“Our customers are why we exist,” said Vido. “Therefore, their satisfaction is essential to our success.”
Quality – and consequently customer satisfaction – is measured in a number of ways: through Things Gone Wrong (TGWs) that Ford receives from customer surveys, warranty claims that Ford receives from dealerships, the J.D. Power Initial Quality StudySM and regular vehicle inspections conducted routinely at the end of the line at Ford’s assembly plants.
The standards for the way vehicles are assembled come from Product Development (PD) and Manufacturing Engineering. Prior to a vehicle going into production, teams work upstream in the PD cycle to ensure the right adjustments are made to the standards, particularly with the new technologies being put into Ford vehicles.
Once in production, teams confirm through a standard system of checks and balances that the process is being done correctly and that there is a standardized reaction plan in place if an issue is detected.
According to Steven Opaleski, manager, Manufacturing Quality, when there is standardized work across the plants, issues are clearly highlighted in a proactive way so that they can be resolved and robust improvements can be made to the system.The standardization in how data is used helps facilities around the world communicate and continuously improve.
“If we’re building the same vehicle across different regions, the plants can talk to one another in the same language and leverage each other’s knowledge to fix issues,” he said.
When issues are identified they are grouped into seven categories: chassis, electrical, powertrain, vehicle engineering, paint, body exterior and body interior; and a strong, renewed emphasis has been placed on using the 6-Sigma approach to problem-solving called DMAIC.
“The DMAIC – which stands for define, measure, analyze, improve and control – has actually forced us to go about problem solving in a very rigorous, consistent way,” said Vido. “The best-performing plants follow the standards and adhere to the DMAIC when they have an issue.”
Vido says that while quality is advancing at Ford’s manufacturing facilities, the company is forever being presented with challenges.
“One challenge is managing the change consistent with on-going efficiency and flexibility efforts,” he said. “A second challenge is adapting to new technology being introduced on vehicles where we can effectively build and test the associated software and hardware. Lastly is staying disciplined in keeping the bill of process exactly the same in all facilities building the same product as the teams make minor continuous improvements.