Author: Willfried Heist, Vice President Quality, Product Safety and HSE Management, T/QM, Knorr-Bremse SfN GmbH
Quality is quite simply quality? Unfortunately it isn’t quite that easy. Due to the increasing technical complexity of products an increasing number of companies from other sectors are becoming partners in our supply chain. This is confronting the quality manager of today with completely new challenges: how can new companies be optimally integrated into the supply chain? What will it require to guarantee our quality standards along the global supply chain all the way through to the n-tier companies?
Quality is a factor critical to success – for all companies in the automotive sector. As a manufacturer of brake systems for commercial vehicles our products are of great importance to safety on the roads. More than one thousand million people the whole world over pin their faith every day in systems made by Knorr-Bremse. The high quality of our products is relied upon by them. There is only one critierion by way of which we can fulfil this responsiblity: zero defects. This is the unreserved claim we make upon the development and production of our systems.
Quality managers today are being challenged globally
The economically viable assurance of quality in the face of ever shorter development cycles is the true challenge in this respect. Quality management is caught in the tensions between quality, costs and time. The quality manager is often required, in the globalised supply chain, to master this balancing act not simply in one production plant but globally across a whole range of locations all the way down to the very last n-tier-company!
An eye must be kept on the costs of errors
Not even the costs factor is easy to keep under control, despite what one might think with a view to the lower wages costs at some locations. This is because the missing know-how and quality awareness often needs to be generated at with a great deal of effort in order to keep a grip on the quality costs – in particular the costs of errors.
The aim: common quality standards
How may these difficulties be met? First and foremost by way of a uniform quality awareness along the entire quality chain and continuous, common learning in questions of quality management. In this context we see the “Automotive Quality Alliance” as a central platform for the international exchange of experience. Quality is relevant to all companies along the supply chain. The securing thereof is our common task and responsibility. With this initiative we are extending the exchange and transfer of knowledge that has been taking part for a long time to all companies along the supply chain.
For it is only together that we will be able to succssfully meet the present and future challenges in the field of quality management.
Preventive measures at all levels of production
In the everyday hustle and bustle, between important appointments with clients and suppliers, we need to turn our focus upon preventive measures. In this way errors in the production process may be avoided or reduced to a minimum. This means: management of preventive measures, in development, in production and all the way through to dispatch. And all of this in a global environment with people of different cultures and professional experience. This is the major challenge and major opportunity for the quality management of today – at least for us at Knorr-Bremse.
What are the challenges being faced by quality management in your company? Please feel free to share your experiences with us.
The Knorr-Bremse Concern is the leading manufacturer world-wide of brake systems for rail and commercial vehicles. As a technological pacemaker the company has been decisively accelerating the development, production, sale and servicing of modern brake systems for more than 100 years. Further product ranges, within the field of systems for rail vehicles are intelligent entry systems, air-conditioning, energy supply systems, steering components and windscreen wipers, platform screen doors, friction materials and driver assistance systems. Furthermore, Knorr-Bremse offers driving simulators and e-learning systems for the optimal training of rail crews. The range of systems for commercial vehicles covers, in addition to the complete brake system including driver assistance systems, torsional vibration dampers and power-train-related solutions as well as gearbox controllers to improve efficiency and save fuel.