Quality Case Study #3

by Chris Turley

Organisation profile

  • Automotive fuel systems supplier: Toyota, Honda, Nissan, BMW, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lotus, Ford, GM, Aston Martin, Daimler Chrysler
  • Turnover: Circa £25 million
  • Employees: 240+
  • Location: Leicestershire, UK


Having gained basic control of the day to day quality situation and having achieved a reasonable degree of stability, we started to consider how to move the organisation away from thinking about quality in a reactive way to thinking and acting proactively, as the most efficient problem solving of all is prevention.


We considered what business activities, in addition to obvious manufacturing and process engineering processes, carried the greatest potential risk to our quality performance. It was clear from the data that new project introduction (NPI) was the organisation wide process which carried the greatest threat both to quality but also to cost and by default our stress levels.

The data showed that the level of quality concerns relating to projects within 180 days of launch / start of production (SOP) was a major contributor to our overall quality performance.

It was also clear that the levels of manpower absorbed by ‘managing’ new products during the post SOP phase, was very high and the negative effect on the business significant.

We defined what a ‘quality project’ was:

  • On Time,
  • In full,
  • To budget
  • Make a profit now and in the future,
  • Satisfy ourselves and our customer.

And that the quality performance target for any project had to be zero defects.

The decision was made to combine senior management of Quality & Projects and transfer quality engineering staff into the Projects Department. This was done in the knowledge that it weakened the skills and experience of the Quality Dept. but the potential gains greatly outweighed the risk.

Action 1 – Gain understanding of the current NPI activities and interactions

I completed a full review of all the activities undertaken by Projects staff, a task which took approximately 1 month and covered project management, project / process engineering, applications / design engineering. I also reviewed the interactions between the Projects Dept. and the supporting departments to understand how our people worked together and importantly how the projects were led, including a ‘Blocks & Consequences’ questionnaire, which enable all to voice their perceptions / conclusions as to why our NPI performance had not achieved the required levels of achievement.

It was clear to see that we were lacking leadership, structure and standardisation in all aspects of project management and our staff were ‘making the best of a bad situation’, however this led to differences in content and approach from project to project and department to department.

The decision was made to develop a bespoke NPI process tailored to the businesses specific needs and situation.






Action 2 – Develop NPI process

The process was based on the gateway approach and was designed to provide project managers with a defined framework within to operate. This would ensure that all the key activities were standardized in both content and method. We developed a complete package of documentation, again to enable standardisation but also to remove this workload from the PM’s who could then focus their attention on managing the tasks.

The project lifecycle was broken down into phases & Gateway’s, as follows;

The key to delivering projects capable of achieving zero defect is embedding quality thinking at every stage of the project.

Ensure that your ‘quality thinking’ and considerations are embedded in all proposals and quotations, focusing on the objective of zero defect, whilst bearing in mind the customers own stated quality targets. Make sure that any quoted solutions (design of product & process) are capable of delivering zero defect and meeting or exceeding your customers expectations right from the outset.

Ensuring that past problem history is analysed and considered during the commercial and design phases, asking how can we ‘design out’ the risk of defects from product and process, to including a planned series of proving trials (pre-production) with specific goals and objectives, to ensure that the process is fully ‘shaken down’ and capable before you need to start supplying the customer in any volume.

Every contributor to the project should have their own ‘quality thinking’ guided by the organisations overall quality goals, which are derived from the ‘top level’ goals of:

  • Make money
  • Satisfy Customer
  • Satisfy yourselves

Quality plays a key part in the achievement or not of all 3.

Remember that new projects (products and or processes) are the ideal vehicle for continuous improvement, but in many cases deliver a backward step in performance. NPI is the first step in the quality process for any organisation and the successes or failures you achieve here can easily be carried through the entire life of the product or process.

Action 3 – Plan, Do, Check, Act (P.D.C.A)

We now had the basis of an NPI process with the potential to deliver high quality projects, however the single thing which enables project excellence are the people involved, from the Project Managers, through the engineers, to the support staff and the operators. We held a programme of project awareness / training sessions including every level of the organization, hosted by me, as the senior manager responsible but delivered by the NPI team (Project Managers & Engineers). An integral part of these sessions was an open Q&A were all were encouraged to voice their opinions and questions (sometimes partially stage managed), after the usual slow start, these proved to be a great way of embedding clarity and understanding of our objectives, logic and method.

The next stage was using the NPI process, clearly this was a significant change in our NPI behavior and took time to develop and embed, I spent the majority of my time supporting meetings, explaining the process and the documentation and mentoring, training and supporting individual members of the team and organisation, ensuring that the process became fully embedded and standardised.

Once up and running, we reviewed the process monthly, making adjustments and modifications as required, in reality we modified less than 10% of the initially launched process, but the changes we did make came as a result of actually using the elements and as such were critical in making the process effective and efficient.


The headline results achieved were as follows:

In excess of 50 projects launched On Time, In Full, To budget, making a profit and satisfying our customers and ourselves.

All the projects managed to launch during this period achieved the primary project quality goal of zero launch PPM (zero defects during 90 days post SOP)

The most positive results were the significant reduction in negative ‘effort’ required from the business to deliver a project and the positive effects on teamwork generally throughout the organization.

Learning Points

  • Clearly defined and understood project goals and objectives are essential
  • A standardised NPI process is vital
  • Keep it simple (as much as possible)
  • People are what deliver excellence, so invest in the people
  • Manage people not tasks   (Grip Self, Grip the team, Grip the tasks through the team)
  • The 6 P’s rule is always in effect (Prior Preparation Prevents P**s Poor Performance)

For further information see the Project Management section of our website: www.LeanQCD.com

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