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Quality, Value Chain, Trends

Quality control and continuous improvement is our approach to the production of plastic components for the automotive industry

09 November 2020

High quality is a value in itself and we expect it in almost every area of life. Manufacturing companies, in order to compete effectively and acquire customers, have to meet growing demands in this area. In the automotive industry, effective quality management is crucial and concerns every company in the long supply chain. As a manufacturer of injection-moulded and foam-moulded car parts for the largest automotive corporations, we consider quality to be the key factor in our activities.

Due to its specificity, the automotive industry sets quality standards for the whole industry. The compliance of each component used to manufacture a car with precisely defined norms and standards is crucial in this case, as it determines its reliability and driving safety. Passive safety systems and parts that protect passengers during an accident play a special role. Manufactured in accordance with strict standards and subjected to demanding tests must meet the highest quality requirements. Achieving perfect compatibility of a component with precisely defined parameters requires appropriate management of processes related to production quality. Knauf Industries manufactures a wide range of EPP and EPS foamed car parts at 18 plants around the world. In its daily activities it combines rich know-how, innovation and many years of experience in the field of processing with the best standards developed in the automotive industry.

Why is quality control so important in the automotive industry?

Motorisation has a major impact on people's lives - cars not only allow them to move freely, but have even become part of their lifestyle. Their high quality affects not only the comfort of use or design, but above all the safety of driving. The quality of a car is closely linked to what components it is made of, how they fit together and how they work together. Car manufacturers produce only a small number of car parts, the vast majority of them comes from external suppliers. This is why some of the most rigorous quality standards have developed in this industry. The best example is the global automotive company Toyota, which has become a reference point for quality standards for manufacturing companies around the world. Restrictive standards in the automotive industry must be met by both the car manufacturer (OEM) and the Tier 1, Tier 2 or Tier 3 subcontractors throughout the supply chain. Knauf Industries has extensive experience in each of these roles, which is why we are well aware of the specific quality requirements at all stages of the supply chain.

Production quality in the automotive industry - important norms and standards

The most important standard for the automotive industry is IATF 16949:2016. The certificate created by the International Automotive Task Force (IATF) is awarded to those companies that meet strict requirements related not only to the quality of the products themselves but also to the organisation of production. The quality of the management of the whole system, including procedures for quality control or crisis response are subject to assessment. Moreover, an IATF-certified car manufacturer must cooperate with a whole chain of sub-suppliers meeting the same standard, as their products are part of its own process. It is a guarantee that a given company not only meets the requirements of the quality management system, but also effectively implements continuous improvement processes, thanks to which it is able to prevent errors, maintain the repeatability of product and procedure quality and continuity of the production chain. All Knauf Industries plants in Poland successfully passed the IATF certification process and regularly undergo multi-stage, very thorough audits according to 16949:2016.

Continuous improvement in practice - types of inspections on the example of the Knauf Industries Wrocław plant 

In the Polish Knauf Industries factory in Wrocław, a full range of injection moulded components for the automotive industry is created, which are used both inside and outside the cars, so constant improvement in accordance with the Kaizen idea is very important here. It is essential that critical processes are properly identified and that they are carried out in a way that is consistent with expectations. A helpful method in this respect is statistical process control (SPC), which serves to monitor and control production processes. Potential errors and threats to product quality are eliminated by daily internal audits on the production line. Knauf Industries also applies the Poka-Yoke quality control method developed by Toyota, which is based on the principle of "zero defects", which could result from human inattention, for example. The modern technologies gathered in our own measuring laboratory allow for a thorough control. The parameters of manufactured parts are checked by means of laser sensors, vision cameras or spectrophotometers. However, as it is most important to avoid mistakes even before they arise, Knauf Industries invests heavily in human capital, through training and skilful human resource management. In fact, it is the experienced production workers who create quality, while the technology is used only as a support. The majority of the Knauf Industries team is made up of long-term employees, which gives a high degree of stability and confidence in the correct course of their processes.

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