North American sports cars are pioneers in quality control. Their contribution paved the way for more systematic quality management for the automotive industry, not only in North America but internationally. Because of them, quality doesn’t only start with stretching materials out on a tensile sample preparation machine or paints undergoing chemical tests. Quality control begins with conceptualization.
They have revolutionized the words “quality control” and created the standard, initially QS-9000, for every player in the automotive industry to follow.
The Automotive Industry Action Group
When the Big Three automotive companies established the non-profit organization Automotive Industry Action Group in 1982, it paved the way for more organized quality control processes for many companies that produce parts, components, and assemblies.
Initiated by Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler of Michigan in North America, it started with more than 650 volunteers from different professionals in the field to share their expertise. The organization has grown to more than 4,000 members composed of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), government bodies, and parts and accessory suppliers. The collaboration aims to provide a framework of a quality management system for every member to follow.
Here’s how these automotive giants from North America have revolutionized the quality control process in the automotive industry.
Started a Universal Standard for Automotive Quality Control Processes
For the background, the organization developed the QS-9000, a standard that members use to offer business. It is a management system that drives manufacturers to produce high-quality parts and accessories for customer satisfaction.
However, with different sets of standards to follow for automotive companies from other countries, suppliers and parts manufacturers endured high costs. For this reason, The International Automotive Task Force (IATF) unified the standard for all members from different parts of the world.
Although based on ISO 9000, the standard even improved to the globally used IATF 16949.
During the time, the Big Three documented their specific requirements for their assemblies. It replaced individual standards and merged them into one:
- GM’s NAO Targets for Excellence
- Chrysler’s Supplier Quality Assurance
- Ford’s Q-101 Manual
- Truck Manufacturers’ quality system manuals.
Developed Core Tools and Requirements in ISO/ TS 16949
QS-9000 is the now improved ISO/ TS 16949 or IATF 16949. It has five core tools that automotive companies follow in America:
Advanced Product Quality Planning (APQP)
The APQP focuses on developing new products and processes. The approach enables manufacturers and suppliers to produce a comprehensive guide to implement their plans for achieving optimum quality.
Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA)
FMEA is the anticipation of possible failures of the product and concluding possible improvements to the product. Through FMEA, manufacturers can prevent future recalls and establish planned solutions.
Statistical Process Control (SPC)
This tool documents figures or readings from instrumentations or machines used for manufacturing parts or accessories to monitor and control quality. It is an effective reference for continuous improvement.
Measurement Systems Analysis (MSA)
MSA is a measurement system to quantify characteristics. In a data-driven industry, measurements collected play a huge role in decision-making. MSA is a systematic approach that identifies the measurement method, the people taking part, tools to show measurements, samples to be measured, and external or environmental factors.
Production Part Approval Process (PPAP)
One of the most significant tools developed with QS9000 is PPAP. With a comprehensive planning process by manufacturers, clients become more confident in the auto parts or components they use for their models.
Manufacturers Strive for Quality Excellence and Improvement through Documentation
Manufacturers gear their products towards producing high-quality parts and components with documented plans and processes. Even during the application, a business proposal may or may not build confidence in component makers. The QS9000 is developed for manufacturers and suppliers to work towards customer satisfaction.
By documenting your manufacturing procedure, tools used, testing equipment, people involved, or tensile sample preparation for materials to use, customers conclude if you can create quality components.
With documented data gathering and validation, decision-makers can make evidence-based evaluations and improvement strategies.
Created One Certification Body for All Members
While certification may not guarantee a quality product, the AIAG initiated the creation of a certification body that will provide confidence, not only for part makers but also for customers. Certification embodies credibility. For customers to consider parts or components makers, OEMs would seek QMS-based certifications.
Be it an IATF 16949 certificate, a Core Tools Certificate, or Auditor’s Certificate; it would be easier for auto manufacturers to assemble parts with a quality assurance certificate.
Suppliers and manufacturers can Discover Potential Product Failure to Avoid Future Product Recalls
Recalls are not just a burden to car manufacturers. For car owners who have no idea that their car is subject to recall, it is dangerous. Remember the over 3 Million Ford vehicles found to have defective Takata Airbags?
How about the GMC Bolt EV, Sierra, and GMC units recalled for having improperly casted left brake caliper on the front? The seatbelts bolt issue on GMC SUVs can be dangerous as they can detach from the seat should accidents occur. Manufacturers should anticipate bolt replacement of a different type before using them on seatbelts.
Accidents are avoidable if part makers anticipate the decisions or processes’ effects before assembly or distribution.
But since AIAG has developed FMEA, parts makers will have a definitive guide on enhancing their designs and processes and assessing potential risks.
Encourages Manufacturers and Suppliers to Conduct Internal Product Audit and Tests before Releasing Products
The AIAG has auditing certification courses. It is integral for parts suppliers to meet the standards set by the IATF.
With these courses, suppliers and manufacturers become knowledgeable and cautious about the products they produce. Testing happens on site. They partner or invest in testing facilities for chemical testing, thermal shock, humidity, or heat resistance test. For various materials, running samples on a tensile test sample preparation equipment is necessary to figure out its breaking point.
A Guide to Ensure the Components Are Safe before Assembly
Safety is the ultimate goal of having a Quality Management System. Suppliers and parts manufacturers must produce reliable components.
In automotive, testing parts are crucial to safety. Whether you produce seatbelts, clutches, o-rings, gaskets, or any metal car body part, document the procedures and tests conducted to prove that you provide safe automotive parts. And to achieve these standards, investing in testing partnerships or methods such as tensile sample preparation equipment is a must.
They would still have to test their products before applying for a certificate. Otherwise, they would endure months of the rigorous application process and still fail to get a certificate.
Four decades and these North American Sports Car Brands have changed the way cars are made. From conceptualizing to documentation, their standard has been a global way of assuming responsibility for auto components produced. And without setting the bar high for carmakers and parts manufacturers, can you imagine how quality control would be today?