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5 Advanced Product Quality Planning Methods for Auto Parts to Increase Customer Satisfaction

If you are looking for an edge in today's competitive market, then product quality planning is a great way to achieve it. Numerous methods can be used to increase customer satisfaction with the products that come off your factory floor. In this article, we will review five advanced methods of product quality planning which have been proven to work well.

It's difficult to be successful in today's competitive market without ensuring your products are of the highest quality. Advanced product quality planning (APQP) can help you identify and reduce risks associated with designing, producing, and sourcing your goods — giving you an edge over your competitors.

To achieve success, there are several methods of product quality planning that should be utilized any time you’re ready to manufacture a part. These strategies will work for any industry and part being produced. Let’s take a look at five of the best APQP strategies below.

1. CONDUCT COMPREHENSIVE RISK ASSESSMENT

Conducting comprehensive risk assessment by evaluating potential hazards before production begins is critical to ensuring the functionality and quality of the product. Developing a detailed plan to reduce risk is also important.

While it’s difficult to eliminate all risks associated with manufacturing, you can — and should — plan to eliminate as much as possible. Know your company's tolerance levels for potential outcomes and adjust accordingly. There will always be a percentage of your manufactured product that ends up damaged, defective, and unsellable. However, putting plans in place to reduce the margin of error before production will go a long way.

Creating an error-proof design and eliminating all errors before production starts will speed up the process, save time, and reduce expenses during production. You’ll end up catching issues that could have made it through production and created a terrible customer experience.

Risk assessment should also involve analyzing your manufacturing partners. Partnering with suppliers that provide high-quality goods at competitive prices is critical. The quality of items is one of the first things customers notice, whether they’re inspecting a steering wheel or detecting how quietly a vehicle rides. Quality production partnerships are key to manufacturing excellent parts while still maintaining project deadlines.

2. CREATE A DETAILED QUALITY CONTROL PROCESS

Ensure that all steps in the production process are monitored and checked for quality. Create a plan to monitor suppliers, subcontractors, and their work on an ongoing basis to ensure compliance with company standards.

Set up checkpoints throughout the manufacturing process where defective parts or materials can be identified early enough for corrective measures, such as reworking of material or redesigning of part design before defects reach customers. This is known as "zero defect" planning (ZDP) and it should be utilized in every manufacturing warehouse.

Eliminate defects including those related to poor fit and finish, improper performance specifications, inadequate corrosion protection, inadequate adhesion between basecoat/clearcoat layers, and other quality issues. These issues should always be resolved at the source and should never end up being called out by a dissatisfied customer.

3. ANALYZE THE QUALITY CONTROL PROCESS

Analyze the process to identify potential points of failure and possible areas for improvement such as reducing weight, increasing production speed, or decreasing material consumption. Analyzing your products as you go along ensures an early discovery and enables you to enact changes into your design before the entire production run has made it out the door.

Analyzing weight, production speed, material consumption, and other quality points can lead to overall decreased production costs in addition to a better end product. The better the product, the higher customer satisfaction ratings you’ll achieve, and that translates into larger sales volume and profits.

4. USE AUTOMATION SOLUTIONS

Use automation solutions, such as robots and automated operators or CNC machined parts, where it makes sense and with an eye toward cost. Replace repetitive manual tasks that require an exorbitant amount of labor with automated solutions like machine learning services to save on labor costs and reduce production time.

Think critically about your automation solutions and choose only those that significantly reduce labor and production time while providing enough value to make the purchase monetarily worth it.

Typical quality control issues that can be reduced or eliminated with automation include noticeable defects, dimensions outside of tolerance limits, missing components, cleanliness of products, damaged parts, and imprecise products.

5. UTILIZE PERFORMANCE, PRODUCT, AND MARKET TESTING

The more you know about how customers will use or react to a new design before it is introduced on the market, the less risk there is for unforeseen defects that might affect customer satisfaction with your company's products. Early-stage design tests can be produced using 3D printing to quickly adjust to consumer suggestions and feedback on-demand for further testing.

Where possible, market testing for performance and customer experience is key to understanding how parts will function. In the course of production, adjustments will need to be made so the product meets consumers' expectations. Market testing during production will ensure the quality is adjusted to meet the expectation of consumers all along the way.

Any time a new design or feature is introduced, testing should be conducted to analyze customer experience with the product. With testing and customer feedback, changes can be made before mass production of the part occurs, eliminating the issue of sub-standard quality in comparison with customer expectations.

APQP FOR CUSTOMER SATISFACTION IN THE AUTO PARTS INDUSTRY

Customer value management is more important than ever before, as customers are expecting better quality and faster production from suppliers. This is a trend that will continue as customers demand higher standards across all industries. To meet these expectations for automotive parts, advanced product quality planning is key to reducing defects and increasing customer satisfaction while still achieving cost savings and remaining at the top of the industry.

About the Author:

Christine Evans is the Director of Product Marketing & Content Strategy at Fictiv, an on-demand manufacturing company. Over the past six years, Christine has grown Fictiv’s popular Hardware Guide and Digital Manufacturing Resource Center, with over 2,000 teardowns, DFM guides, and mechanical design articles to help democratize access to manufacturing and hardware design knowledge.