QUALITY MANAGEMENT IN THE AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY

A car is synonymous with many things. It can be a status symbol, a haven, and a toy, but more importantly it is a means through which many people are able to gain greater mobility and thereby improve the quality of their lives. In order to be able to guarantee this, the automotive industry is constantly working to actively improve the features, quality, and future development of the vehicles that we drive. This is done with the goal in mind to continuously improve the value that both existing and future customers experience. Safety, efficiency, comfort and design are just a handful of areas that are subject to continuous development. They generally become visible once the product itself has been released. The origin of this innovative approach stems from the automobile industry itself. Companies thus need to ensure that they are constantly evolving, setting new standards for themselves and continuously adapting both the way they operate and organise.  One of the automotive industry's most widely used international standards for quality management—that also promotes the idea of continual improvement where both innovation and organisation are concerned—is the IATF 16949:2016. This international standard is helping companies pave the way towards a successful future.

IATF 16949: What lies behind this transition?

Prior to this, changes made to standards of the automotive industry were carried out according to a large number of disparate national and international norms and standards. The task of harmonizing these norms necessitated an inordinate amount of communication and coordination between the various suppliers and producers. It wasn't until new far-reaching norms were introduced and established that a solution was found. With the primary aim of establishing a global QMS standard—that took into consideration the complexity inherent to the supply chain of the automotive sector—an international task force, comprised of the leading automotive manufacturers and their trade associations from around the world, was formed. This task force is known as the International Automotive Task Force (IATF) (Die IATF 16949, P.Strompen, 2017, S.7,11). The task force was formed in order to provide "a common set of techniques and methods for common product and process development for automotive manufacturing worldwide" (IATF 16949:2016, 1. edition, p.7). All those involved in the supply chain had until September 2018 to complete this transition. In doing so they had to define their customer requirements, so as to ensure that these expectations continued to be addressed, met and even surpassed. Ensuring consistent, good quality products and services that meet expectations and enhance customer satisfaction is an important factor when it comes to guaranteeing market competitiveness.

Quality management and data management go hand in hand

To a certain extent, the new IATF 16949 came out of a change in thinking in the automotive sector, which is increasingly taking into account costs generated by stoppages, downtime, and product recalls instead of focussing on direct production costs. This development has played an important part in paving the way for this new standard.

Increasing the quality of the processes in production (and thereby the quality of the product) is key to reducing these costs. This is being achieved with the help of the new standards. It goes hand in hand with the fact that the requirements placed upon processes, controllers and documentation in production facilities continue to grow. With regard to the Industrial Internet of Things, data and documentation have an important role to play. This is because almost every process generates data and the majority of today's production facilities are controlled by programs. These programs are constantly being revised, adapted and optimised, and are thus in a state of constant change. The data that is incurred as a result is of great importance in many ways. It can be used as documented proof related to production processes for audit trails. It can also be used to assess efficiency, ensure quality, analyse data (i.e. via Key Performance Indicators) and backup data. In addition, it can also be used to monitor data usage or to simply display how data is managed in an automated production environment. Section 8 of the IATF 16949 makes many references to "traceability" being a key "requirement for ensuring conformity of products and services" (IATF 16949:2016, 1. Edition).

How exactly does versiondog support quality management?

A robust data management system for quality management needs to document, manage and analyse production data, versions of programs and data sets. Only if the production data is handled perfectly is it possible to use it as the basis for smoothly running processes and thus have an error-free production facility. A data management system for automated production environments, like versiondog, needs to be capable of meeting new customer requirements and actively use those requirements to increase quality. Over time data management processes have greatly evolved. The old days of using USB sticks have been replaced by automated data management systems. versiondog is one such data management system that allows you to create versions of program data sets, generate and extract backups, backup data running on devices and compare previous backups and versions of programs. The production process is monitored by the data management software and all events are documented in accordance with the requirements set out for audit trails. Thanks to versiondog you always have the data you need in order to perform a restoration. The software shows WHO changed WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, and WHY, thus giving the customer more security, safety, certainty, data availability and, most importantly, quality. The strengths of this data management system help support all production processes, generating greater clarity and transparency, which quality managers, auditors, auditees, and manufacturers can all benefit from in equal measure.

Sources:

  • IATF 16949:2016, 1. Ausgabe, 2016
  • Strompen, Peter (Hrsg. TÜV Media GmbH), Die IATF 16949 : Anforderungen an Qualitätsmanagementsysteme für die Serien- und Ersatzteilproduktion in der Automobilindustrie, Köln, 2017