Quality Sets 2018 Goal

Southwire’s Quality Improvement Goal for 2018 is to reduce Nonconforming Parts Per Million (NPPM) by 10 percent in relation to 2017. The NPPM metric was introduced in the 2017 June/ July issue of Inside Southwire as the ONE Southwire metric to reflect the organization’s quality performance. According to Angela McKeirnan, vice president of quality, the goal is based on quality-related customer returns, after tracking quality measurements throughout 2017. Reducing the number of returns is vital to retaining customers and expanding Southwire’s customer base. “In 2017, we standardized on a ONE Southwire product quality metric – NPPM – because it is both a standard quality measurement and a reflection of the customer experience,” said McKeirnan. “Of course, no measurement tells us everything about the customer experience, but by working on the leading indicators and using standard quality tools, we will drive down the NPPM.”

Southwire’s OEM business unit, which is comprised of four facilities – Bremen and Lafayette, Ind., and El Paso and Mineral Wells, Texas – tested the 10 percent quality goal in 2017. By the end of the year, the group had surpassed the goal, reducing NPPM by 40 percent. Michelle Turner, OEM Quality Manager, was a vital piece of that success. “In today’s market, one of the most important aspects of our products and services is quality,” said Turner. “The OEM group was able to realize outstanding improvements in 2017, and the key to this has been the support of the OEM leadership team. We also realized that we needed to listen to the Voice of the Customer, collect the data, build the system and make the appropriate changes in our process in order to properly address our customers’ feedback. This, in turn, eliminated the opportunity for nonconforming products. Customers who get their concerns resolved quickly and effectively are not easily won over by the competition.”

Identifying areas of improvement and providing sustainable solutions were also an important part of improving quality at such a rapid pace. The OEM team began by prioritizing complaints and top customer issues using Standard Tools. Then, the OEM sales force organized customer visits with those who expressed complaints, as well as other customers in their portfolio. After numerous visits compiled with available data, formal complaints, emails and phone calls, the team was able to improve their quality systems and reduce variability. “A good example of this process is the relationship we now have with TE Connectivity,” said Turner. “In 2016, Bremen had 16 complaints from TE Connectivity for print issues and a total of 798,602 feet in returns. The Bremen team invited the quality representative to the Bremen facility, showed him the process and worked with him to develop an agreed upon specification for print. A project was initiated at Bremen to improve print quality, including the training system, and clear expectations. As a result, there were zero complaints for print issues from TE Connectivity in 2017. This also resulted in a 50 percent reduction in print issues overall.”

According to McKeirnan, quality improvements are more than a metric. Each employee plays a part in Southwire’s success, so it is important to be aware of inconsistencies and address them. “The idea that ‘Power is Life’ is true, and our customers trust us to make the highest quality products in the world – not just because they want the best product for a competitive price but because Southwire’s products power so many things we depend on: our homes, schools, workplaces, hospitals and so much more,” said McKeirnan. “To ensure we produce excellent products, employees can participate in numerous ways. First, know that your role is incredibly important to our customers, and everything you do is important to them. Second, do everything you can to produce our products exactly to the specifications to reduce variation. Finally, if you are not sure we are running a product within conformance, stop the line and get a supervisor or Quality team member. To minimize returns and scrap, we need to recognize and address any potential nonconformities to ensure everything we build and ship will meet the product specifications and customers’ expectations.”