Nicolette Dalpino  |  10/03/2008

Mitigating Risk

IQS Global Quality Infrastructure

Cequent Transportation Accessories, a division of TriMas Corp., located in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, designs and manufactures a broad range of accessories for light trucks, SUVs, recreational vehicles, passenger cars, and trailers. The company has a long history of using enterprise quality management to drive market success.

Three years ago, Chinese supplier error levels were unacceptable and in direct conflict with the requirements expected of Cequent’s domestic suppliers. In an effort to mitigate this risk and improve quality, Cequent used the global quality infrastructure from IQS, of Cleveland, Ohio, to implement a successful domestic quality and compliance program.

An importer’s responsibility extends to such issues as poor tooling and equipment, and basic communication challenges that can contribute to poor quality. Because the Chinese manufacturing sector does not have a history of quality management and quality processes, simply dictating an end-state is not the answer. To complete the quality program, the importing organization needs to provide monitoring and in-process checks to ensure that all aspects of the production process meet quality standards. Importing organizations that are serious about quality should also provide a monitoring and compliance mechanism that checks quality throughout the process.

A rigorous process for identifying, managing, and monitoring quality already exists in advanced product quality planning (APQP) with failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA), which is essentially a risk profile. IQS not only provides a framework for FMEAs and the associated control and inspection plans, it also integrates them with each other and the rest of the quality management system.

Before launching a quality management solution with its Chinese suppliers, Cequent first ensured that its United States lab could make a prototype. Once the appropriate risk profiles, control plans, work instructions, and inspection plans were in place, Cequent established the supplier as an entity within IQS’ global infrastructure, and deployed the supplier using the IQS quality framework. This provided the supplier with a step-by-step, detailed process for executing quality. In return, Cequent had complete visibility into the supplier’s real-time inspection and compliance data, and the ability to make characteristic-level changes to the documentation when needed.

The final step for Cequent was to develop a plan whereby quality experts spent time at the plant helping suppliers learn and apply the inspection process. This not only increased the speed of supplier adoption, it also improved the overall flow of data and communication, enabling a breakdown in cultural barriers and forging a path to success with suppliers.

The IQS global quality infrastructure allowed Cequent to successfully deploy a tested and proven quality program to its first Chinese supplier in less than 24 hours--a significant accomplishment. Through this quality transformation, Cequent now has assurance--before a product arrives in the United States--that it has passed its required quality thresholds, greatly reducing future warranty costs or recalls issues.

“Typically, an overseas supplier can copy a great design, but risk rapidly escalates when the design has a defect, or the characteristic details are not coordinated and shared through the enterprise from engineering to post-production,” says Kreg Kukor, director of global quality systems, Cequent Performance Products. “By teaching suppliers to use FMEAs and control plans as living documents, we proactively reduce PPMs, warranty, and risk, while improving our suppliers’ capabilities. The reality is that their success is in our hands.”

IQS permits Cequent to track supplier performance, create supplier scorecards, implement a dock-to-stock program, and have up-to-the-second information available on nonconformances. This creates a “no excuses” environment with accountability standards. “We’ve found that our suppliers greatly appreciate the effort we have put into our supplier quality management program because it has proven to help improve their company’s performance and to build a long-term business relationship with us,” says Kukor. “IQS made it possible to develop a robust quality management process for suppliers that we could quickly and seamlessly replicate across our entire global supply chain. We plan to continue developing FMEA-based quality inspection programs in IQS to reduce our PPMs across our entire global supply base.

“Quality defects from our Chinese suppliers were 1,000 times our U.S. rate before deploying IQS’ global infrastructure to our Chinese subsidiaries and suppliers,” continues Kukor. “Within a week of training, defects were significantly reduced, bringing us to our current rate, which is comparable with our U.S. suppliers. Using IQS broke down the cultural, process, and communications barriers, and allowed us to manage quality in China exactly like we manage quality here in the United States--top notch.”

IQS Global Quality Infrastructure


  • Provides a framework for FMEAs and control plans, and integrates them with the QMS
  • Permits users to establish and track suppliers within the infrastructure
  • Models successful supplier quality behaviors
  • Creates a “no excuses” environment for supplier conformance


About The Author

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Nicolette Dalpino

Nicolette Dalpino is a news editor for Quality Digest.