ASQ, (American Society for Quality www.asq.org)
publishes a magazine that you get with your membership. In the
October 2001 issue, there is an article by R. W. Hoyer about
the FORD and Firestone fiasco called, Why Quality Gets an 'F'.
And while I agree with what Hoyer says, there are some issues
not touched upon. This may be an issue of not enough article
space for Hoyer to explain in more detail.
Hoyer indicates that companies these
days hire too many younger people and the lessons of the past
are lost. We keep seeing the same mistakes over and over again
because the old seasoned professionals that have seen some
problems before are gone, and the younger employees have not
seen them and don't even know they exist. I agree that this
could be a problem, but on the proverbial flip side of the
coin, without fresh ideas, there are no innovations. Some
young talent needs to be incorporated into the business in
order to get fresh ideas. Now what percentage of young vs. old
is another issue to consider, but be assured that the
companies that can strike the perfect balance will achieve
better quality in the end.
Based on my research, which includes
CNN, 20/20, DateLine, CNBC, and other similar sources to
include interviews from local TV stations and talking to the
actual employees making the tires at Firestone, I have drawn
the following conclusions. It's not one error but many, made
by both companies that compounded into a REALLY BIG MESS. For
what its worth, here is my take on it. And there are some
degrees of freedom for how I see it.
- FORD designs Explorer with tire
specifications. Hands specifications to Firestone.
Firestone says we can build that tire for $x each. FORD
agrees and Firestone starts building them. FORD Explorer
hasn't come off the line yet.
- FORD discovers that they have a
potential 'roll-over' problem. The need to keep this quite
is a high priority. FORD evaluates Firestone tires at
26PSI. 6PSI from original specification. FORD thinks this
will be OK. The Explorer will ride smoother and also lower
tire pressure will help potential 'roll-over' problem due
to the sidewall of tire taking some stress. Firestone is
unaware of the specification changes. Because of a 3 sigma
design margin, 6PSI may be too much to deviate from
- Firestone has labor strike.
- Non-Union labor can't meet
Short cuts in processes is found to aid in production
material can't get across picket line. Some 'in-house'
rejected material and 'out of date' material is used to
meet production schedule. Now the 3 sigma design margin is
much too little of a design margin to produce an
acceptable, reliable product.
- Reports of problems starts hitting
- Strike is over.
- Short cuts in process are left in
to processes to increase production to make up for loss of
profits at union table. These short cuts are NOT
compatible with FORD's new specification of 26PSI that
Firestone is still unaware of. This includes 'awling'
bubble holes out of tires.
- Some short cuts may have been
incorporated World Wide at Firestone to increases profits.
- Supplier of raw rubber to
Firestone and perhaps others, supplies rejected material.
Inferior product is purchased by Firestone to keep profit
margin the same as pre-strike conditions. To meet
production schedule, material is 'waived' into production.
- Fallout from material starts
coming back to haunt Firestone. On top of past failures
at Firestone, continuing failures raise red flags by
governments and watch-dog groups.
On top of everything else, some end users do not check
tire pressure adding to the problem.
- Law suites starts, et. al
Based on my 11 years of experience of a
Fortune 25 company, etc. I can see all of this being feasible.
Of course we will never really know all the events that
Perhaps if a Six
Sigma program using a design
margin of 4.5 sigma
was in place, at least some of the failures, sometimes cause
by an external
failure, would not have occurred. Of course hindsight is
20/20. Adding to the mess, apparently both FORD and Firestone
are QS9000 and ISO9000
qualified and do 'self audits'. I do not believe in 'self
audits'. It is like leaving the fox in charge of the hen
house. It is like letting airlines be in charge of security.
This concept creates a monetary conflict.
I would be interested in seeing some
data on, in how many of the accidents were the Explorers
loaded or overloaded with cargo, as well as, what was the mean
weight and mean tire pressure. If the Explorers were heavy
with weight, it would cause the tires to heat up and depending
on the tire pressure, could directly contribute to the
accidents. While we know that the problem mostly, if not
exclusively, happened in warmer regions, I would also like to
know what the mean road temperature was. I really like to
reverse engineer failures in a failure analysis project.
Would it not be ironic if the strike,
largely and directly contributed to the failures? That the
people that went on strike ultimately, while trying to better
their own and their children's lives, actually only ended up
in insuring the closure and layoffs of facilities and
undermining their net objectives?
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