“Eventually, we'd like to
have a common
For nearly a decade, R. Dan Reid, manager for supplier quality development at General Motors' North American purchasing operations, has played an important role in formulating and revising international quality standards. Since 1990, he has represented General Motors on the Chrysler, Ford, GM Supplier Quality Requirements Task Force, which was primarily responsible for developing QS-9000. Reid currently serves as one of eight international automotive representatives working with ISO Technical Committee 176 on ISO 9000's year 2000 revision.
In this exclusive interview with Quality Digest, Reid shares his thoughts about QS-9000's impact on the auto industry and its future, his frustrations, and his hopes for achieving a worldwide automotive standard.
QD: What is the criteria for updating QS-9000? Why did the task force decide it should revise the second edition?
Reid: I can't say that there's any one thing. We started in 1994, based on suppliers asking us to collect our previous company-specific documents together to benefit them in one standard.
When we launched QS-9000, we were thinking of the domestic automotive industry. But we are global companies, and our European, South American and Latin American operations all wanted to pick up on this document as well. There were language and other issues that needed to be included to meet their needs, so we had to come out with the second edition fairly quickly after the first edition.
QD: So it was mostly supplier-driven, then?
Reid: Well, initially it was. The second edition was original equipment manufacturer-driven to make it usable for their operations and suppliers globally. Discussions with the Europeans precipitated the third edition. But, also, with the Sanctioned QS-9000 Interpretations beginning to be such a widely used document, we felt that we would have to revise QS-9000 itself.
QD: What auto companies, besides the U.S. Big Three, are using QS-9000 with their suppliers?
Reid: In Australia, there's four automotive manufacturers: Ford, General Motors, Toyota and Mitsubishi. Those Australian operations have adopted QS-9000. Some of the heavy truck industry companies -- Mack Trucks, Navistar, Volvo Truck North America -- have adopted QS-9000 fundamentals. A large number of our tier one suppliers have adopted it.
QD: Will QS-9000 registration, as opposed to compliance, ever be required for tier two suppliers and below?
Reid: I don't know. We're showing some interest in that subject inside General Motors. We've just started to broach the subject with Ford and Chrysler to see what kind of interest might be there. It's too early to say, but there is some interest in the possibility.
QD: European automakers have their own quality system requirements. How much harmonization, if any, between QS-9000 and European standards has occurred in the QS-9000 Third Edition, and is more harmonization planned in future revisions?
Reid: We have incorporated a fair number of the clauses from the European, ISO 9000-based systems in use in Italy, France and Germany into the document. We haven't gone 100 percent to reciprocal recognition or full equivalency of the different manuals at this point. The Europeans have incorporated most of QS-9000's content into their manuals, and we've incorporated a large amount of their manuals inside the third edition. We're somewhere around 85 or 90 percent equivalent.
We are continuing to have discussions with the Europeans about the possibility of a common set of requirements. Unfortunately, when you get down to the last few items, it gets more difficult to reach consensus. You can agree on many of the points fairly easily, but it's going to take a little more time and discussion to get to a common manual.
Eventually, we'd like to have a common registration scheme everyone would recognize. We think there's a good possibility we'll be able to write up something, given enough time and discussion.
It's an integrative process. We don't want to hold up the progress that can be made in the short term because the third edition provides a lot of help for the suppliers that the European automotive manufacturers and we share in common.
QD: Chrysler recently announced that it will make third-party registration to the Tooling and Equipment Supplement mandatory for its tooling and equipment suppliers. Is GM planning to follow suit, and do you view Chrysler's move as positive?
Reid: We don't plan to make the TE Supplement a requirement at this point. We're going to continue with it as a voluntary guidance document for our tooling and equipment suppliers. I don't have any comment on Chrysler's decision.
QD: Has the task force been approached by any of the Japanese automakers about possible use of QS-9000?
Reid: We have. We've been in discussions with Toyota of North America, Honda and Mitsubishi.
In January, I was in Tokyo for a presentation to the Japanese Automotive Manufacturers Association. Basically all the manufacturers in Japan of either automobiles, trucks or motorcycles were at the meeting. We talked about what we're doing with the Europeans and with ISO 9000. I asked them if there was any interest in that, and they told us they're satisfied with what they've got, and they didn't have any interest in moving to an ISO 9000-based quality system.
In the longer term, though, after the next revision of the ISO 9000 standards, they've expressed interest in participating in our discussion with the Europeans and investigating the possibility of moving toward an ISO 9000-based system.
QD: Since QS-9000 came into existence, what's the most significant change it has brought about in the auto industry, and what is your opinion of that change?
Reid: What we've heard and seen is that it's moving the bar in terms of product quality improvement. That's the bottom line -- improved product quality to the customer. When you talk to suppliers and hear survey results about QS-9000, you see things that weren't expected: improved company morale, better job understanding and improved relationships.
A large supplier indicated to us that, in their company, QS-9000 broke down the "silo effect": Engineers, purchasing and manufacturing people were all talking to each other and working in cross-functional teams for the advanced product quality planning phase. Before QS-9000, they didn't do it. QS-9000 gives people and organizations a common language and set of requirements to work through.
QD: During the last decade, the U.S. auto industry has made great strides in regaining its reputation as a world leader in quality products. Was QS-9000 a part of that change or did it come about as an ancillary benefit?
Reid: My opinion is that QS-9000 had significant input in that improvement in industry, but there are many quality efforts going on in the United States. It's hard to say that any one thing is the cause of all of it. It's a combination of a number of worthwhile initiatives.
QD: What will be the role of quality in the automobile industry during the 21st century?
Reid: It's hard to predict. I think you might see more of an integrative quality management system or standard that incorporates all the requirements from all the different systems into one document, which will make it easier for suppliers and organizations to work with a common set of requirements.
QD: When you first sat down to create QS-9000, what were you expecting it to be?
Reid: Our task force got started as the result of a supplier conference in June 1988. The ASQC Automotive Division conference included our vice presidents for purchasing. The suppliers told them that if we could put together one common quality system requirement for the industry, we could save a lot of money. Of course, we were interested in pursuing that, but you've got to think back to 1988. We all had our own company specifics at that time. It was a lot of expectation on anyone's part in 1988 that we'd be able to get together and harmonize those type of documents.
We started small. Our vice president told us to keep it small, keep it focused, don't spend a lot of money. If you can't accomplish something, fold it up and go home. It was uncharted water.
We got a slow start. It took us a year or so to develop the first manual. Then we began experiencing some small successes. We started getting the Management Systems Analysis manuals on the street. Those were met with a really positive response from suppliers. They kept saying they needed more, faster. We redoubled our efforts and, by 1991, we started several groups concurrently on the advanced product quality planning, and a couple of other things, to accelerate the harmonization to benefit suppliers.
It took a long time to grow to the point where we could be successful with QS-9000. One of the vice presidents actually said he didn't think in his lifetime there would be a common manual for quality with the Chrysler, Ford and GM logos on the front. Another vice president came in a year later and said, "We're going to do it this year."
QD: What has been your biggest frustration with QS-9000?
Reid: It's always tough to build consensus. The consensus-building process is getting all the people on the same page with what you're trying to do, then coming to an agreement about how to do it.
Actually, it's been a really rewarding time. When I look back on it, I can say we've done something to improve, and make a difference in, the industry.
QD: Why have you been reticent about discussing QS-9000? Do you think the press has been unfair or inaccurate in covering the issue?
Reid: For the last six or nine months, we've been trying to get the third edition on the street, trying to decide what should go in it and how we should approach the future. Given that, it really wouldn't have been profitable for anybody to speculate prematurely. There wasn't a lot to say, authoritatively, until we had made the main decisions about the new edition.
About the author
Elizabeth R. Larson is Quality Digest's news editor.