Ford Fixing MIA Quality Control, ASAP
Anyone blessed with the gift of reading comprehension has noticed an influx of stories about Ford and its recent quality control issues. Top brass Jim Farley is on record lamenting the problems and pledging to turn things around in this area. One of the first out of the gate with a quality control (QC) overhaul? The brand’s important (and profitable) new Super Duty.
In the olden, olden, olden days of vehicle production, it wasn’t uncommon for manufacturing and QC managers to be at loggerheads; there was more than one occasion in which meeting build targets took precedence over, y’know, actually getting things right. Those days are (mostly) gone – but it seems the crew at Ford’s truck plant in Kentucky are taking an especially hard look at quality control, where they’re willing to shut down the line to fix product issues.
One would think it is common sense to not let vehicles escape the factory with known problems, but it not unheard of for managers to permit the line to continue with an intent of addressing quality snags after the fact. This permits the plant to ‘make its numbers’ while theoretically repairing any glitches before the rigs make it into the hands of paying customers.
But with the Blue Oval putting a renewed focus on quality, managers at the Kentucky Truck Plant are said to have stopped production for up to three days earlier this year in order to address defective parts which were discovered when assemblers began hammering together the new Super Duty. Given that shutdown costs are generally calculated in the millions, this is no small deal.
Know what else is measured in huge numbers? Recall costs. Ford apparently spent over $4 billion (with a ‘b’) on warranty claims last year – which is at least one metric in which they beat General Motors, though probably not a crown they desired to earn. Investing big bucks to catch quality problems on the assembly line will likely pay off in the long run, just like doing preventative maintenance on yer car may avoid a hefty repair bill after the timing belt snaps and turns the engine’s valves into Cheez Doodles.
On tap at the Kentucky plant to help with this QC project are hundreds of new quality inspectors, cameras which feed images showing if electrical connectors are properly installed, and quality control command centres with displays that show data from assembly stations. Ford says almost 30,000 copies of the new Super Duty were test driven on validation loops, far more than the usual handful plucked randomly from the assembly line. The company hopes to use these lessons and methods at other plants.
The timing of this news is probably not an accident. Ford is reporting its Q1 results tomorrow, suggesting the company wants investors to know it is making strides on quality instead of just mouthing a few platitudes.
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Matthew buys, sells, fixes, & races cars. As a human index of auto & auction knowledge, he is fond of making money and offering loud opinions.
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