Friday, July 30, 2010

Customer Driven


This year Toyota has requested independent outside evaluations of its product quality improvement system as part of an ongoing drive to enhance its global system of collecting and analyzing information from the customer. One assessment released a few weeks ago (June 30) by the Union of Japanese Scientists and Engineers (JUSE) found several new measures “especially promising.”

The report highlights:

• New process called Design Review Based on Failure Mode (DRBFM) was added. Based on the principle of Mieruka (making any important factor in a process visible at the actual work site), the process requires engineers to make a thorough comparison between existing problem-free technologies and all modifications or new technologies to be introduced. By following the standardized process, engineers analyze the implications of any differences that exist between current standard and new standard from the customer viewpoint.

• Regional technical office network was expanded and upgraded to respond more quickly in conducting onsite investigations of reports of serious quality issues (Toyota’s so-called SMART activities, an acronym for Swift Market Analysis and Response Team)

• Unified design responsibility for crucial components was assigned to single divisions (instead of spreading that responsibility across multiple divisions, as occurred formerly) and it has established a separate division to spearhead improvements in design quality--Design Quality Innovation Division, staffed by about 40 engineers—based on customer input in design standards. This is in addition to one hundred or so engineers now employed in the Product Audit Department.

• Customer First training centers will be established in each region to cultivate quality assurance professionals and to ensure information from customers is captured so that it can be fed back to the design process.

The report also suggested:

• More field personnel than Toyota’s present plans and training to equip the field personnel to function effectively from a customer perspective

• Stepping up training for dealers’ maintenance and repair personnel to prevent problems; for example, floor mat interference with accelerator pedals.

• Developing and applying further criteria for evaluating suppliers. Beyond technical capabilities, the report suggested analysis in terms of management expertise and implicit risk.

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