Author: Pandidurai Subramani, Head of Global Management Systems & Projects at Vestas Wind Systems A/S
As a global leader in developing, manufacturing, operations and maintenance of wind power installations, quality is crucial for Vestas Wind Systems. In order for our clients to provide a reliable energy supply with the help of our wind energy turbines, and thereby also benefit financially from their investment in wind parks, our products and processes need to function without a hitch. Hence, our quality management is structured just as professionally as our development, production, and services departments.
A vital part of this system is the assessment of our own processes and those of our suppliers with regard to functionality, stress resistance, and efficiency. To do so, Vestas Wind Systems has decided to utilize a process audit based on the globally recognized VDA 6.3 auditing standard as preferred methodology within manufacturing and supply chain, which we have adapted to the business needs of the wind energy industry.
Is the VDA 6.3 only for the automobile industry? Certainly not!
We may not interface with the automobile industry, but we definitely have a lot in common. Our products are also high-tech; we manufacture around the world and have a highly branched network of partners and suppliers. Development and production are just as much of our core business as are various services, maintenance, and repairs. Accordingly, we use the process audit to evaluate the quality capability of products and product groups, as well as of the related processes in the overall product life cycle.
Used in three phases
The Vestas process audit based on the VDA 6.3 is implemented primarily in three phases:
With the help of the audit we ensure the quality of the development processes during product development. At the same time, the audit also serves as a prerequisite for approving new developments for series production.
During running production and/or during running business operations, the process audit helps us determine the maturity of the processes. This allows us to assess whether we can retain the process as-is or need to improve it, such that we can continue to ensure the excellent quality of products and services at all times. Furthermore, the audit also serves the purpose of conducting ongoing inspections.
For us, the process audit is also a crucial instrument for supplier assessment and development. To verify the process quality, we require our suppliers to conduct a corresponding audit. Ultimately, by doing so, we ensure that good components are delivered. In addition, we use the audit as a criterion for the approval and acceptance of high risk components which our suppliers develop for and with us.
Why VDA 6.3?
Before 2012, many business units at Vestas Wind Systems used different, internally developed methods for process auditing. Because the results were not comparable due to the different approaches, we faced alignment issues. Hence, we decided to define a uniform standard for Vestas. In order to do so, we compiled our own best practices and examined benchmarks from other industrial sectors.
Because the VDA 6.3 was an internationally recognized standard for process audits in the automobile industry, we shortlisted this set of guidelines, and implemented them step by step — initially in the form of auditor training courses for key persons in quality management.
It quickly became clear to us that we would not be able to use the VDA 6.3 standard exactly as it was. Reasons for this include e.g. the fact that automobile-specific terminology is used in the standard, which are uncommon or not fully used / applicable in the wind energy industry — or the fact that VDA 6.3 was primarily conceived for companies with mass production, which did not apply to Vestas on the same scale. Finally, we also needed to cater to all our business units with the new, company-wide standard, and adapt this standard to their requirements.
New Red Print: A helpful tool for all industries
Within the past four years, the Vestas process audit based on VDA 6.3 has become a vital component of our process quality management. We have implemented it step by step company-wide and its use has been a success. With the new Red Print, we hope to benefit from the experiences of other quality managers, and based on this information, continuously optimize our audits as well. We are convinced that VDA 6.3 is driving our process quality management forward.