Automobile manufacturers are the ideal candidates to benefit from Six Sigma quality improvement methodology. Their industry produces a complex product that results from a multitude of manufacturing processes. Auto makers acknowledge the importance of quality not only in producing a profitable product, but also in winning the hearts and minds of their customers.
Throughout its history, the automobile industry has provided both good and bad examples of how to implement continuous quality improvement. Today, many auto makers are exemplifying the best way to implement Six Sigma methodology.
For instance, Ford Motor Company promoted the philosophy “Quality is job 1,” in the 1980s, today they have demonstrated that making product quality a high priority is more than just a slogan, it is critical to the organization’s operations and long-term growth. Ford created a quality equals profitability equation stating that improving quality increases customer satisfaction which leads to an increase in customer loyalty. An increase in customer loyalty increases Ford’s sales revenues by the billions and profits by hundreds of millions.
Quality: not just for engineers
Automobile manufacturers seeking to deploy Six Sigma methodology would do well to follow the lead of organizations that have implemented Six Sigma successfully. Six Sigma must be more than just a passing fad promoted by management. To receive the lasting benefits of Six Sigma, auto makers must have the philosophy engrained in their DNA.
Ford demonstrated its long-term commitment to Six Sigma by implementing it at the highest levels of senior management. 350 of Ford’s executives, including the CEO, received Six Sigma training or certification. During the first two years of the initiative, Ford trained more than 10,000 employees in the roles of Six Sigma, including Master Black Belts, Black Belts, and Green Belts. Ford labored to ensure that as many employees as possible were focused on the goal of increasing customer satisfaction by using Six Sigma methodology.
Six Sigma for all
Organizations in the automobile manufacturing industry don’t have to be major players with worldwide corporate concerns to reap the benefits of using Six Sigma. Southland C.N.C. provides precision machined component parts to automobile manufacturers. When Southland set out to expand production capacity by purchasing new hydraulic fixtures, the standard it used to rate equipment was based on the six sigma philosophy that the tolerances of the machinery would meet its customer’s requirements.
Aligning purchasing decisions with the customer’s Six Sigma requirements helped Southland make a better purchasing decision. The machinery it acquired reduced load/unload time, reduced cycle time, reduced scrap rates, and led to error-free loading. Selecting machinery that meets customer Six Sigma performance standards has helped Southland double its output while maintaining a high level of product quality.
Many view Six Sigma as a collection of tools used to help measure and reduce variation in a production process. While accurate, this definition fails to fully capture the benefits that Six Sigma can provide to companies who use it. When Six Sigma is connected to a critical customer requirement such as higher product quality at Ford or meeting product tolerances at Southland, it can become instrumental in increasing revenue and profitability by increasing customer satisfaction.