The Role Of Quality Control In Automotive Manufacturing
The Role Of Quality Control In Automotive Manufacturing
Industry Insights
The Role Of Quality Control In Automotive Manufacturing
This article explores the prevalence and advancements of quality control in automotive manufacturing
June 9, 2021

Automotive manufacturers have an inalienable responsibility to deliver high-quality products. General manufacturing Quality Control (QC) is an effort that reviews product quality intending to identify and eliminate defects. Discovering and fixing the defects should typically happen before the products reach the consumer. In unique cases such as Volkswagen in 2015, a defect will lead to a recall or similar effort to address the issue after delivering the product.

Modern automotive manufacturing facilities consider Quality Control to be a foundational part of their entire production process. The reason is that the facilities can increasingly maximize the volume of products within a small time window.

When a machine is responsible for the defect, the market will have to endure thousands of substandard products. Usually, when this happens, it becomes a PR disaster waiting to happen, or there are concerns about sales down the road.

What Modern Manufacturing Control is About

Quality Control is as important in the automotive industry as it is in construction, machining, and other industries. The specific Quality Control practices may differ; manufacturing is always about high volume and a low tolerance for failure.

Machine failure during a production run is not a light breakdown issue. It’s an event that could lead to a person’s death. The implications for human life is one reason why Quality Control in the automotive industry is a large and intricate process.

Most people are only familiar with crash tests, but those are not the only Quality Control process in designing a car. There are multiple other tests to ascertain the Quality of parts and the entire vehicular contraption. During prototyping, the manufacturing facility engineers each piece of a vehicle to a specific engineering standard. As soon as the prototype is complete, other exciting parts of the process begin.

One of the numerous checks is testing the car seals involves filling the car cabin with smoke. Extreme temperature tests (hot and cold) will determine the range of climates the vehicle is able to withstand without melting or freezing into a block of ice. Similar tests may check the smoothness of a ride on various terrains and the kinds of shocks the vehicle can withstand without damage.

The outcomes can be grave when automotive manufacturers don’t follow standard processes. We refer to that Volkswagen case again; the company’s shortcut approach has meant years (possibly decades) of fighting to win back consumer trust. Installing a “defeat device” in vehicles to beat emissions tests turned out to be a not-so-smart move. Regarding the monetary implications, ask Volkswagen how they’ve coped with coughing out billions of dollars to finance repairs in the wake of the debacle.

Why Quality Control Matters in Automotive Manufacturing

Few people (Americans) realize how much time they spend in their vehicles over the course of a year. Forty-five percent of them are emotionally downcast when life situations force them to part with their cars. If people spend this amount of time in their cars and have such emotional attachments to them, cars must represent an important entity in their lives.

But, does manufacturing Quality Control contribute anything to vehicle owners spending more time in their cars? In many ways, they do. The vehicles need to be of high quality and conform to the highest safety standards for drivers and passengers.

Now, are the vehicles a joy to ride in? Quality Control takes into account all issues of safety and comfort.

Essential Topics Surrounding Quality in the Automotive Industry

The automotive industry has peculiar interpretations of the concept of quality. It’s also unique in prioritizing methods and strategies for expertise, practice, and work experience. The ISO’s definition of quality pays special attention to the extent of adherence of specific feature(s) to specific requirements. In simple terms, a requirement is a need or an expectation. The automotive industry needs to fulfill quality requirements that are either explicit or implied.

Some hindsight is necessary: Henry Ford’s concept of mass-produced vehicles involved training that could quickly assemble cars with consistency and precision. Such were the humble origins of quality. Modern automotive quality derives from three principles:

1.   Quality in Product;

2.   Quality in Productionand

3.   Quality in Ownership.

Quality in Product refers to the ability of the vehicle to meet all expectations in terms of function and behavior. Such expectations include engine efficiency, product features and options, and environmental exhaust standards.

Quality in Production translates to producing vehicles of a consistent quality standard while sticking to determined cost limits.

Quality in Ownership addresses customer satisfaction while they own the vehicle. Therefore, there’s the customer experience while they engage in the purchase process and vehicle reliability. There’s also the driving experience, besides other hard-to-measure elements including the feeling of status and the pride of owning the vehicle.

The active international standard for automotive Quality Management Systems is the IATF 16949:2016. It’s been active since 1999 and was developed by the International Automotive Task Force (IATF). This standards document supersedes the ISO/TS 16949. IATF 16949:2016 supplements and is on the same trajectory as ISO 9001:2015. Because of this, it’s not an independent Quality Management Standard.

Quality Control For Automotive Components Nuts and Bolts

Manufacturing was once all about reviewing a bill of lading of materials and running caliper checks. Digital technology has revolutionized all of that, however.

It’s now routine and standard practice to test a raw material sample for chemical composition. The same applies to the durability testing. During transportation and movement between warehouses and manufacturing plants, items can get the wrong labels or packed in the wrong boxes.

Manufacturing facility staff need to be sure of what they’re working with, and for nuts and bolts, size and thickness are essential elements of Quality Control.

Augmented Reality (AR)

Checking materials’ chemical compositions and physical dimensions are good, but more possibilities are emerging technologies such as Augmented Reality affords automotive manufacturers. Augmented reality works on the premise of overlaying digital information in the real world. If it sounds fantastic, it’s only because it is. The Nintendo game, Pokemon, helped revive its financial fortunes when it made a mobile version that implemented augmented reality. Pokemon Go helped spark a revolution across various industries beyond entertainment.

Here are a few ways that AR can improve QC in automotive manufacturing:

  • Complex assembly
  • Expert support
  • Maintenance

For instance, becoming familiar with the iterations of complex assembly projects. It’s more challenging when you aren’t responsible for the design. Vehicles are more complex, meaning technicians need to increasingly specialize.

The implication in using AR is that technicians can wear a digitally linked pair of lenses supplying a heads-up display like a manual, overlaid on the actual machinery before them. 

For maintenance, an automotive plant technician can compare digital blueprints to assess what’s before them. When they’re not sure about a part, say it’s unfamiliar or strange, he can compare the part to what his library contains concerning that part.

If the technician requires further guidance beyond their specialty and purview of knowledge, they can get direct expert help on the machine.

The former practice was for the technician to arrange another correspondence with an engineer. These days, an engineer can gain remote access and make drawings on the heads-up display or send a message to support the technician. Exciting innovations such as AR are the new normal in automotive quality control, as they improve coordination intra- and inter-manufacturing floors. It is reasonable to expect these trends to grow exponentially.

Automotive Quality Control and Autonomy

Autonomous automobiles are steadily becoming mainstream, meaning detecting issues will likely need fewer operators. It’s easier today to anticipate a future where electric cars drive themselves. However, there needs to be a more significant consideration for QC in manufacturing.

Electric vehicles are a world apart from internal combustion vehicles. Therefore, the materials and chassis need to fit the electric model. Efficiency and quality are crucial when speaking of batteries, electric engines, and the devices that power them.

Electric vehicles have few moving but more interacting parts, along with belonging to the IoT ecosystem. There are possibilities for ongoing Quality Control management, even after the vehicles are no longer on the manufacturing and showroom floors.

In an exciting twist, humans themselves will become part of the Quality Control process.

The Quality the Automotive Industry Wants

Quality is more important than ever in vehicle manufacturing in a post-pandemic world. As carmakers contemplate investing more in developing electric vehicles, there’ll be more launches of battery-powered transportation solutions. Electric vehicles are the new viable alternatives to hybrid gas-electric vehicles, which have dominated the commercial market for a considerable time. This new market segment (also called the green movement) expects rapid and accelerating growth.

Research from McKinsey & Co. shows that modern vehicles will provide insight into customer buying patterns, driving behaviors, and provide the groundwork for much better future deployment. These fundamentally new vehicles have to go to market with a next-to-zero margin for error for manufacturing efficiency and product safety. It makes a convincing case for Quality Control.

This new paradigm led big automotive makers to anticipate, identify and eliminate several potential production problems to avoid unwanted issues when products hit the market. General Motors did this with the Chevrolet Volt. And with GM, one significant issue is that its future economic success will be essential in a more environmentally conscious, low-emission world. Therefore, its new vehicles must be without the faintest flaw while delivering maximum comfort to consumers via electrical power.

How Automotive Quality Works

Automotive quality control is vital to lower the possibility of a vehicle developing issues. However, even with high-profile recalls, vehicles are generally more reliable than ever. Automakers have successfully gone past the experimental stages of new-breed vehicles, the primary reason being that they’ve increasingly mastered the art of Quality Control.

Automotive manufacturing Quality Control ensures that vehicles are free of defects and operational issues. The process usually involves putting vehicles through rigorous testing routines to achieve excellent engineering, safety, and comfort for the end-user.

According to popular thought, Quality Control happens at the end of the manufacturing cycle. What’s more correct, though, is to begin the process before the initial production models come off the assembly line. This latter method prevents the build-up of undue manufacturing waste, significantly minimizing cost and shielding the consumer from preventable cost implications.

In terms of quality, technology helps to streamline the automotive design process. Software like WorkClout quickens product and process design transfer to manufacturing, consequently improving the pace of new product introductions.

Engineering staff can promptly receive closed-loop feedback of pre-production and pilot phase production oddities to effect corrective action. It reduces the possibility of recall and improves the overall quality of the vehicle.

Using WorkClout, each new vehicle model begins which a prototype which a company improves by testing for weaknesses and mechanical problems. Once there’s approval for polished prototypes, the design goes into production, where WorkClout continues its QC policing on the production line.

In helping automotive engineers to improve quality by more than 25 percent, WorkClout streamlines quality management in automotive manufacturing. Within seven days, teams can fully onboard a digital solution to manage quality. Scanning captures essential data, field-validated to avoid errors. Real-time data reporting in WorkClout is robust and scalable, and it’s easy to automate alarms and escalations using workflows.

Once it rolls off the assembly line, each car is battle-tested for possible mechanical or assembly problems. Frontline workers in automotive manufacturing trust WorkClout to streamline quality inspections, corrective actions, knowledge building, and ISO compliance. For the most customizable inspection template builder and excellent reporting, automotive manufacturers know to choose WorkClout.

Conclusion

Automotive manufacturing is replete with novel challenges, but this presents tremendous opportunities for the auto industry. Modern methods and principles in design, distribution, and manufacturing are the new nucleus for improved Quality Control in the automotive industry.

While automotive Quality Control has advanced tremendously, the human component is still crucial in building quality vehicles. For this reason, WorkClout bakes in the corporate ethos of involving every employee in the Quality Control process.

illustration of person performing an inspection using a tablet on WorkClout.
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