Making the Case for Quality
Ford Team Uses Six Sigma to Reduce Costs While Improving Environmental Impact by Janet Jacobsen
At a Glance . . .
Ford Motor Co.’s consumer-driven Six Sigma strategy involves regular analysis of scorecard metrics to detect performance trends. In the fall of 2009, during a routine metrics review, officials at the organization’s Saarlouis, Germany, plant discovered an escalation in basecoat paint consumption. Not only was the upsurge driving production costs higher, but it also pointed toward increased solvent consumption, which in turn led to higher levels of volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions. A Six Sigma team addressed both cost and environmental issues and, at the same time, uncovered an unexpected solution that surprisingly led to a shift from a robotic to a manual process.
About Ford Motor Company
The Ford Motor Co., founded in 1903, designs, develops, manufactures, and services cars and trucks across six continents under the Ford and Lincoln brand names. The company also provides services and products in the areas of maintenance, collision, vehicle accessories, and extended service warranties under the Genuine Ford Parts, Ford Custom Accessories, and Motorcraft brand names. The organization, headquartered in Dearborn, MI, employs more than 166,000 people and operates 70 plants worldwide. One of the organization’s overseas sites is the vehicle operations center in Saarlouis, Germany. This facility, located in the southwestern region of the country, is the single-source plant for the 2011 Ford Focus in Europe, as well as a European model called the Kuga. The plant employs 6,500 people and produces 1,850 cars daily in three shifts.
Identifying Opportunities for Improvement
Ford’s balanced scorecard system provides reporting tools that offer monthly values versus target figures, year-to-date/year-end values against target, and a prioritization system using red/green/yellow evaluations to pinpoint where improvement is needed. Using this evaluation system, the automaker classifies data as: •
Green: measures are on or over target. Yellow: metrics are under target, but better than last year. Red: results are under target.
In the fall of 2009, data for body paint consumption for the Focus and Kuga were classified as red, thus capturing the attention of plant officials. A quick review of historical data showed basecoat paint consumption stood at 3.74 kg/unit in 2007, while current consumption was 4.18 kg/unit.
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When improvement opportunities like this are discovered, the organization typically turns to problem-resolution tools such as Six Sigma, if the following questions regarding the project result in affirmative answers: •
Does the project have recurring events? Is the scope of the project narrow? Do metrics exist? Can measurements be established in an appropriate amount of time? Do you have control of the processes? Does the project improve customer satisfaction?
The goals of the project were threefold: 1. Reduce costs: Reduce paint consumption to lower production costs. 2. Improve customer satisfaction: Improve process capability to better meet customer needs. 3. Lower environmental impact: Reduce solvent consumption to achieve a better VOC balance. Every Six Sigma Black Belt project at Ford starts with a standard project charter, which...
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