If materials, components, systems or services are not delivered on time and/or are defective, ABB has a defined approach for re-establishing fault-free services so that the requirements of customers can be met. As part of its quality assurance strategy, all sectors of ABB are asked to name their top ten worst performing suppliers (Flop10) and to improve their performance.
On behalf of ABB, quality engineers and technology specialists from Formel D help those suppliers that have been identified as “Flop10” companies: for example, a British supplier for the production of large-scale capacitors that were not delivered on time. “For this project, our quality engineers were quickly able to implement effective measures to aid process stability,” reports Marcel Klehr, in his role as Technical Director at Formel D in Munich, responsible for all “Flop10” projects. By using optimised allocation plans for the systems, production increased permanently from two to eight units per week.
On the control units for welding robots, which are manufactured in Malaysia, the display often failed because a cable connection kept coming loose. Cables often broke, too. The cause, the technology experts at Formel D discovered, was excessive vibration, which could be reduced by making a few technical improvements. A kink protector also ensures that the cables can no longer break. In addition to joint project management with John Müller (Group Function Quality & Supply Chain OPEX), his contact at ABB in Zürich, Formel D’s Technical Director is generally on site for a few days to set up the teams with his experts and the supplier’s staff and to launch the project – in this case in England and Malaysia. “Depending on whether the issue is of a technical or an organisational nature, the right specialists for each project have to be found. And we have these,” Marcel Klehr says. Depending on the exact task at hand, they are employed at ABB – and often not just as troubleshooters. “Thanks to our international set-up, we have a global presence and can serve our customers quickly wherever they are,” the Technical Director explains. With some projects, the causes are easy to identify and resolve. With others, they have to be analysed in depth. Measures need to be defined together with the supplier, which then has to implement these independently and consistently.
Marcel Klehr’s team is generally on site with ABB suppliers for three to four weeks. The main requirement for their success is that they ensure adequate methods and tools for analysing and solving problems. Thanks to its extensive experience in the automotive and supplier industry, not to mention its global presence, Formel D is able to successfully apply its expertise to other new industries. 4Q is an approach that ABB and Formel D have been using for several years and one in which they have extensive experience. 4Q refers to each of the four quadrants that have to be processed: measuring, analysing, improving and ensuring sustainability. Instead of focusing exclusively on symptoms and the conclusions drawn from these, the particular success of 4Q lies in analysing and solving not only the root causes of a problem, but also in improving the related processes on a permanent basis. “It is always our aim to enable the supplier to avoid quality defects and delays in future and – should these arise – to deal with these independently,” Marcel Klehr says in answer to the question about where the expectations of ABB and his team’s approach lie.
The 4Q report (based on 8D) at ABB, is a fault analysis process consisting of eight levels. This is used as a standard part of quality management in the automotive industry in the event of a complaint between the supplier and customer and Formel D has extensive experience with this. It allows a systematic approach and the continuous documentation of a project. Progress reports and results from “Flop10” projects are communicated regularly via the 4Q newsletter to around 800 ABB contacts. What’s more, they are also presented at supplier and internal meetings, integrated into the companies’ best practice procedures and ultimately used to improve the suppliers’ quality on a global scale.