Quality control is important in nearly every industry. It ensures that each product leaving the factory is of the highest quality and the same as all those items that came before it. One industry where quality control is especially vital is the automotive industry. Why is quality control so important when making parts for cars and trucks, and how can plant managers improve quality control in their facilities?
The Importance of Quality Control
Why is quality control so important in automotive construction?
It keeps costs down, for starters. Investing in high-quality products might seem like an expensive move, but it can save you money in the long run. A product that's lacking in quality control, especially in the automotive industry, can trigger expensive recalls. Products that are dangerous can cause car accidents and be hazardous to drivers.
Quality control can also spot problems before the product is marketed to consumers, leading to better releases. It can ensure that these products meet industry standards — for some components, like the exhaust and emissions systems, meeting the right standards is essential.
VW learned this lesson firsthand in 2015 when it was discovered that the cars being sold in America were equipped with a defeat device that made the computer think it was within emissions standards. VW was slapped with massive fines in both Europe and the United States, and the company had to pay to repair each car.
Quality control in the automotive industry is essential because cars are inherently dangerous if they're not correctly constructed with good quality control.
Having the Right Tools
Automotive quality control is all about having the right tools for the job. These tools will vary a little bit depending on the exact product that's being produced, but there are several core tools that any automotive facility can utilize to improve their quality control plan. These tools include a failure mode analysis, a statistical process control and a measurement system analysis.
A failure mode analysis allows the facility to analyze the production process and predict possible failure points. Once these failure points have been found, countermeasures can be put in place to prevent them from happening during production.
Statistical control processes are used in quality control in nearly every industry. They utilize statistics to control and improve production processes. They'll need to be tweaked slightly to cater to the specific needs of the automotive industry.
Finally, a measurement system analysis isn't applied to a specific product, but to the equipment that's being used to measure and analyze the products before they become available for marketing. This step ensures that the measurements being taken are accurate, enabling the equipment to be used for quality control without too much variance between batches.
Selecting the right tools during production is also important for quality control. Having the correct grit of sandpaper for auto body work, for example, could mean the difference between a smooth finished product and a quarter panel with swirls on it that show up even through the paint.
Improving Automotive Quality Control
What can facility managers and foremen do to improve quality control in their own facilities? Start by creating a quality of culture. Everyone, from the lowest-experience factory worker to the highest manager, should be focused on creating a quality product. This dedication includes having an open door policy where workers are not afraid to bring production problems or quality concerns to the attention of those above them.
If you use suppliers, work closely with them to ensure that their quality control measures align with your own. That way, products that come from other facilities will meet your quality standard without requiring repair or modification, saving both time and money in the long run.
Adopt new technologies as they become available. One emerging trend is the use of augmented reality — digital constructs projected onto real-world locations — to improve quality control. In some cases, even manual quality control inspections can be improved through the addition of augmented reality. While this practice hasn't been widely adopted yet, it presents an interesting new option for companies looking to improve their quality control measures.
In addition, create comprehensive quality control checklists that can be easily followed. Keep each list with the right product throughout the production process to reduce the chance that a step will be missed or forgotten.
Quality control is an essential part of the automotive industry — one that you can't afford to overlook. No matter what steps you take to improve your quality control process, make sure that they're universally adopted throughout your facility — having a team or two clinging to old QC processes could cause countless problems in the long run. Take the time to improve these processes, and it will be easier for you to create products that are consistently high in quality and perfect for the ever-changing automotive industry.