The task of the Quality Systems
Group at Siemens Westinghouse Power Corp. was challenging:
It endeavored to systematically implement a supplier-facing
standardized product- and process-qualification process
for gas turbine blades. The new process would help reduce
PPQ cycle time, eliminate or minimize product failure points
downstream, reduce scrap and improve first-time yield.
In the highly complex and demanding power-generation industry,
business success depends on effective collaboration with
suppliers to ensure superior, reliable and efficient designs;
rapid planning to production cycle time; and containment
of development and manufacturing costs. For SWPC, the main
business objective was to improve economic performance while
achieving customer satisfaction and strategic supplier relationships
through standardized processes and consistent methodologies.
Headquartered in Orlando, Florida, SWPC is the regional
business entity in the Americas for Siemens Power Generation’s
global fossil power generation business, which has an installed
fleet of more than 600,000 megawatts worldwide. Siemens
Power Generation offers a full spectrum of products and
services throughout the entire power plant life cycle, including
gas and steam turbines, electric generators, process control
and power management systems, and fuel cells for the distributed
With about 250 multi-tier suppliers across the globe providing
components for gas turbines, the supplier quality management
function plays a vital role in the sourcing process. Gas
turbine blades require one of the most complex sourcing
processes, involving up to five unique sourcing steps:
1. Investment casting
2. Root machining
3. Cooling hole drilling (electrical discharge machining
and electro-chemical machining)
4. Diffusion and ceramic coatings
5. Airflow testing and moment weight
The process of designing a turbine blade is inherently
complex, involving precise and unique product characteristics
such as high-strength and high-temperature alloys, thermal
barrier coating, and complex cooling to withstand extreme
turbine operating temperatures and tight dimensional tolerances.
Meeting the stringent requirements of the design intent
and close-to-zero-tolerance for failures requires the skills
of many design, manufacturing and quality professionals
across various organizations. This makes the design and
qualification process for gas turbine blades highly collaborative
With the suspicion that variation in the PPQ process was
affecting optimization of first-time yield, SWPC conducted
a Six Sigma study of the turbine blade PPQ process and its
effect on the costs of poor quality, such as scrap and rework.
Given the complexity of the turbine blade, the study hypothesized
that an ability to define and solve problems collaboratively
with suppliers through standardized processes at the early
stages of the supplier manufacturing process development
cycle can significantly improve downstream reaction times
and costs. The Six Sigma study was completed in October
2001. The findings confirmed the group’s suspicions.
After reviewing the data collected during the measurement
phase of the study and comparing them with the goals of
a closed-loop PPQ process, it was apparent that the existing
PPQ process failed to map these goals. The Six Sigma study
also identified a direct link between the up-front effort
put into process development and qualification as well as
the nonconformance costs. Among other improvements, the
study demonstrated that a standardized, closed-loop PPQ
process with consistent methodologies would improve first-time
yield, thereby reducing or eliminating rework cycles and
A standardized closed-loop PPQ process must:
Minimize supplier product nonconformance
Minimize PPQ cycle time with suppliers
Ensure ongoing process control
Predict future quality
Provide visibility across PPQs
Document the qualification process
Provide complete documentation of qualification
Effectively balance workload and resources
Furthermore, the Six Sigma study concluded that a system
leveraging the Internet would drive the PPQ process in a
way that steers suppliers to focus on up-front process development
as opposed to the current practice of creating a basic process
and modifying it after full production has begun.
The unique characteristics of its product lines and the
multitude of plants and suppliers across the world require
that SWPC operates within a complex network of supplier
relationships. Defining the key requirements of a Web-based
system that would help enforce a standardized PPQ process
at SWPC and across its suppliers was a daunting challenge.
After careful evaluation and following rigorous Six Sigma
process, the Quality Systems Group put together a detailed
plan of reorganizing the PPQ process and revitalizing the
fundamental principle of quality: “Do it right the
PPQ management across suppliers reduces cycle time, rework
and scrap while improving first-time yield. One issue found
when reviewing the PPQ process was a need for increased
control of PPQs from an administrative standpoint. It was
often difficult to track the status of PPQs and action items.
Improvements allowing the system to track the entire PPQ
process life cycle across suppliers, from planning to final
production release, as well as providing accountability
and transparency across PPQs, helped optimize resources.
SWPC suppliers collaborate with the organization’s
engineering and manufacturing teams across multiple parts,
product lines, competency centers and plants. Therefore,
the system should be able to standardize new methodologies
such as failure mode and effects analysis and critical to
quality characteristics, and reinforce existing methodologies,
such as manufacturing and quality control plan, gage repeatability
and reproducibility, and process capability across multiple
parts, products, plants and suppliers. This ensures faster
acceptance of the system by suppliers.
Review of the past PPQ records revealed that there was
no common format that suppliers could follow to ensure consistency.
With a poorly organized PPQ record package comes a difficult
review process. To address this challenge, the system should
provide a standard, template-driven PPQ record package that
can aid engineers in performing an adequate review of the
Engineers and suppliers often spend a significant amount
of time trying to find the right information at the right
place and at the right time. While managing the entire PPQ
life cycle, the system should also provide a single source
of truth--a source where any team member can access information
about the PPQ process in real time.
Supplier quality excellence through continuous improvement
is one of SWPC’s cornerstones. Its closed-loop PPQ
system should be active 24 X 7 to monitor compliance, detect
exceptions, link to critical reports, measure processes
across consistent metrics and KPIs, provide graphical trends,
send alerts and notifications, and capture lessons learned.
For SWPC, a configurable dashboard, which provides an aggregated
view into these quality metrics across plants, suppliers
and product lines and supports views relevant to a user’s
perspective, was essential.
As the PPQ system enables supplier-facing processes, security
is of paramount importance. Who has access to the system
and to what data, which user can perform what task, and
how the data are shared on a need-to-know basis are critical
factors. The system should provide both process and data-level
security to prevent unauthorized users from accessing the
The repeated use of common processes is essential to supply
base agility. SWPC has multiple product lines with complex
parts, global plants and competency centers, and a supply
base that extends across geographies. Its system should
be flexible enough to be easily migrated and rolled out
to other product lines, competency centers and plants as
well as to a constantly changing supply base.
Initially, the Quality Systems Group considered two alternatives
to address the complex needs of this standardized process:
Extend the existing in-house PPQ system. Internal
development and enhancement of SWPC’s in-house database
was considered a short-term fix to track key milestones
of the PPQ process. This option was quickly discarded because:
- The system was not Web-based.
- It was within SWPC’s four walls and could not
be accessed by suppliers.
- It could not scale to handle all of Siemens’
- It was too manually intensive.
Develop a new Web-based PPQ system in-house. This
option was also considered inappropriate due to time and
cost constraints. To design a system with such complexity
would simply take too long. Processes change as business
evolves, and it would be extremely difficult and costly
to maintain this evolving change internally.
In mid-2003, SWPC went live with Apexon Inc., a San Jose,
California-based company that develops Web-based supplier
quality collaboration solutions for global manufacturing
In addition to meeting the key requirements mentioned,
SWPC had the following criteria when choosing a PPQ system.
The system needed to:
Have been implemented and tested under similarly complex
Be able to leverage SWPC’s current IT investments
such as the SAP ERP system
Be easy to use by internal teams and suppliers and require
Be an out-of-box solution that could be implemented quickly
and with reliable support
Cycle time. SWPC now has in place a cross-company,
closed-loop standardized PPQ process that reinforces consistent
methodologies with its suppliers throughout the PPQ process
life cycle, from planning to final production release. SWPC
has seen significant reduction in its PPQ cycle time.
Costs of poor quality. SWPC is now able to centrally
manage its cross-company PPQ system to drive design-for-manufacturability
verification early in the design cycle, delivering optimized,
robust designs into production to reduce scrap and rework
Travel costs. Before, members of the PPQ team would
frequently travel to suppliers across the globe to ensure
that all of Siemens’ requirements were understood
and fulfilled. Today, Siemens has significantly reduced
such costs, as most problems and issues are now addressed
electronically through the process.
Resource optimization. Design, manufacturing and
quality engineers are highly trained and specialized. With
a standardized PPQ process, SWPC now ensures that its engineers
are spending their time on higher-value improvement projects
instead of mundane administrative activities, thus making
them more productive.
Expansion. Siemens is currently rolling out the
system to other Siemens power-generation manufacturing plants
to a new set of suppliers, new plants and competency centers.
Supplier enthusiasm. As the extension continues,
the implementation of a closed-loop standardized PPQ process
has been applauded, supported and enthusiastically embraced
by the receiving users, such as the internal members of
SWPC and the entire supplier community.
From the start, this project was based on one fundamental
principle of quality: Do it right the first time. The question
was: How can SWPC help suppliers do it right the first time?
And how can SWPC drive these suppliers to develop processes
that provide defect-free products from the first piece produced?
The answer is to ensure a robust and standardized PPQ for
every product and process. Target product- and process-specific
qualifications, and incorporate appropriate tools into the
process so that both manufacturer and suppliers can use
them to support development of this robust process. This
will drive up-front quality. The benefits of such standardization
go even beyond improving first-time yield to other nonconformance
costs, such as rework expenses, nonconformance-related production
delays and engineering time spent dealing with nonconformance
Tony Soares is quality systems manager at Siemens Westinghouse
Power Corp. in Orlando, Florida.
© 2004 Siemens Westinghouse Power Corp. All rights