Thursday, February 12, 2009

Using innovative management principles at Ford.

The Romeo organization was designed around five key design ideas.

1. Simultaneous product and manufacturing engineering.

In previous traditional engine plant launches, process engineers designed and purchased the machining lines with relatively little input from other functions. Production employees were usually brought in as the line was being installed on the plant floor, at which time the design engineers returned to other assignments at division staff or central engineering. If the equipment failed to operate properly, production and engineering would blame each other for any resulting problems. At Romeo, the production employees were involved very early in the design process and assisted the engineers throughout the design, purchase, sign off and installation phases of the launch. The manufacturing process was developed at the same time as the product was designed by combining the production and engineering functions. Eventually, they reported to a single manager. This emphasis on simultaneous engineering improved communications and cooperation and facilitated the formation of integrated manufacturing and product engineering teams throughout the plant.

2. Local control of process variations.

A Romeo Quality Plan (RQP) was developed based on a detailed examination of all processing stages in the proposed engine manufacturing cycle. This resulted in an elaborate matrix showing how incoming sources of variation at each stage impacted the overall process flow. This allowed potential quality problems to be identified very early in the design process. During the commissioning and start-up of the plant, variations in materials, maintenance and manufacturing process were reviewed weekly in half-day meetings involving equipment vendors and product engineers. This allowed problems to be identified and resolved much earlier than usual. In addition, all purchased-part vendors were required to set up their own manufacturing processes in accordance with RQP standards. All vendors attended extensive RQP training at Romeo, and were required to successfully complete four detailed manufacturing reviews conducted by the Romeo work teams before they were authorized to start shipping parts to the plant. The RQP process subsequently became the nucleus of the Ford quality plan worldwide.

3. Just-in-time manufacturing.

Romeo used the “pull” system rather than the “push” system of production scheduling. Inventories of in-process parts were minimized throughout the plant and were delivered by the vendors only when actually required. In-process parts were either requested from vendors directly by line employees or requisitioned by automated computer programs. Vendors were included in design discussions which allowed them to provide suggestions about changes that would avoid subsequent scheduling problems.

Design ideas 4 and 5 will follow next week after poetry Friday.

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