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TQM and Ford Motor Company

written by: Jean Scheid • edited by: Michele McDonough • updated: 5/25/2011

Ford Motor Company total quality management or TQM practices started in the 1980s when “Quality Is Job 1” was their slogan. How did TQM work at Ford and are they still standing behind this process? Jean Scheid, a Ford Dealer talks with Ford management along with some insights of her own.

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    TQM at Ford Motor Company

    Ford Chicago Assembly Plant Today at Ford Motor Company, their most popular slogan is “Ford Has a Better Idea.” Back in the 1980s when Ford Motor Company total quality management practices were vast, the slogan of “Quality Is Job 1” made more sense.

    In a conversation with Dan Dobbs, a Six Sigma Master Black Belt at Ford, it was noted that TQM may have worked in the 1980s, but Six Sigma is the project management methodology of choice these days.

    When TQM, a process improvement methodology based on a customer satisfaction quality-driven process with guidelines set by management was first utilized, it started through a joint venture.

    Through a partnership with ChemFil, a division of PPG Industries, Ford wanted to produce better quality products, a stable work environment for the workforce, effective management, and profitability; all by the 1990s, “Quality is Job 1” became “Quality People, Quality Products.”

    Through this partnership with paint supplier ChemFil, paint process were developed to ensure that a “quality product that meets customer’s needs translates into financial success,” according to an insider press release obtained from the Ford Media Room. TQM was forefront in their painting design as the process of preparation (based on customer quality standards) was implemented by ChemFil with Ford management and workers informed of all steps needed to follow the application of paint to a quality outcome.

    Gone were the days of guessing, and TQM meant processes at all levels of production were strictly followed, constantly developed upon, and improved mostly through customer quality satisfaction surveys.

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    TQM is Revisited

    In 1999, Terry Chenault joined Ford, a risk management specialist who along with Phong Vu, helped to further the TQM methodology through a Consumer Driven Six Sigma Process. Says Dan Dobbs today of TQM and Ford, “It may have been newsworthy in the 1980s but Ford Motor Company Total Quality Management practices really began with Henry Ford.”

    That’s true if you look at Toyota’s 5S Best Practices in the production of their vehicles, a methodology decided upon after visiting Henry Ford’s assembly lines. While TQM at the Ford assembly lines looked good to Toyota, they found too much waste and went on to develop their own quality process or 5S.

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    What Changed TQM at Ford?

    1912 Model T According to Dan Dobbs, the Six Sigma Master Black Belt who runs Six Sigma practices at Ford, “Waste and lack of quality on many levels.” This is true especially when you look at the far superior Ford Warranty claim system. As of 2008, the warranty repair rate for Ford by utilizing Six Sigma decreased by 60%.

    Ford Chief Engineer Art Hyde takes the now implemented Six Sigma a step further saying, “The design and engineering analysis process makes it possible for problems, that previously may not have surfaced until (product) launch, to be caught and corrected in the virtual world through the DMAIC process.”

    The DMAIC process, or define, measure, analyze, improve, and control has “built an overall strategy for consistency in our teams,” continues Hyde.

    Of their Six Sigma implementation for 2010 product launches, Dobbs told me, “The Company’s Quality Operating System or (QOS) is crucial for identifying and correcting problems within the manufacturing facilities.” He goes on to say, “Six Sigma and QOS implemented in each plant includes cross-functional groups of engineers, plant management, and production specialists—all skilled problem solvers who’ve been trained through Six Sigma.”

    Ford seems to be sticking with Six Sigma roles and has 60,000 Six Sigma Green Belts, over 7,000 Black Belts and 400 Master Black Belts worldwide. To make the process work even better, Ford is working with Wayne State University in Detroit to aid all UAW Ford reps in becoming Six Sigma Black Belts.

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    Six Sigma and Ford’s Future

    Bill Ford Jr Perhaps the newest slogan, “Ford Has a Better Idea,” is on its way according to Louise Goeser, VP of Quality, “In fact, one and a half points of customer satisfaction drives about one point more in loyalty and our data shows that customers who are highly satisfied remain loyal.”

    Upon obtaining our new Ford dealership, last year, my husband and I traveled to Ford’s headquarters in Dearborn Michigan to “drink the Ford Kool-aid” and Six Sigma was everywhere from production to teams to management to consumer suggestions.

    Whether switching methodologies from TQM to Six Sigma will work for Ford remains to be seen, especially in a tough economy. However, way back when, as a Chrysler dealer, I do remember Lee Iaccoca telling us dealers that “Ford was richer and GM was bigger,” but both needed to “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.” Perhaps this is a way for Ford Motor Company Total Quality Management to improve to a process such as Six Sigma that will involve everyone from the consumer to top management.

    As “Quality is Job 1” fades to the background at Ford, don’t be fooled, they still want that as any automaker, but through Six Sigma practices, they feel they’ve got a grand hold on the industry's market share.

    In fact, upon the end of our Ford Dealer Conference, we were handed a book, Ford Racing Century: A Photographic History of Ford Motorsports, by Larry Edsall and Mike Teske. The inside inscription? “Welcome to the Ford Family,” signed by CEO Bill Ford. No more “Quality is Job 1” but instead, through Six Sigma and what we were shown, it really is more like a family with a bunch of kids to satisfy.

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    References:

    • Ford Media Room: http://www.media.ford.com (Press Releases) - Jean Scheid is a registered user of Ford Media Room.
    • Dan Dobbs - Ford Motor Company

    Image Credits:

    • Ford Media Room: http://ford.wieck.com/db/*wieck_search (Photos)


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