Continuous Improvement in OEM Vehicle Bonding Operations

Posted on 1/3/2018 12:57:57 PM By Dan Murad and W. Pete Smith

During a forensics investigation of an adhesive bonding failure (or even a deficiency in a bonding operation) ChemQuest’s approach is to methodically review the entire bonding process alongside our client. First and foremost, we evaluate the functionality of the end-product and applicable customer requirements. Then we discuss our client’s protocol and any adjustments they may have made in substrate materials, processes, and joint designs to address the end-product functionality. How did our client determine which adhesive product or products would adhere to the substrate?  Which standards or specifications (if any) were used?  Finally, what is our client’s preliminary theory for the failure?  Have they identified any irregular process steps or environmental conditions as a possible cause, or a contributing factor?  Did our client conduct testing to verify the adhesives’ performance prior to implementing a new process to their production line?

In an ideal world, the forensics analysis of a material failure is avoided because the vehicle manufacturer employed continuous improvement in their operations guided by the following four principles:

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Safety can never be overstated. While safety is typically viewed as a plant concern, that notion is incorrect―and can lead to unnecessary risks. It is imperative to engage every department and employee in safety—from the cleaning crew all the way up the organizational chart, including executive management. Garnering the commitment of all employees and groups through direct involvement and accountability demonstrates and reinforces that safety is truly a core value. Employee commitment is a critical component of the drive toward continuous improvement performance in safety, as well as all other aspects of the business. Primary safety metrics are TRIR, DART (shown in Figure 1), Near Miss, etc.

Figure 1:  BLS Total Recordable Cases (TRC) Incidence Rate in Private Sector (2003-2015)

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Source:  U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, October 2016



Planning your approach based on the parameters that your research and technical departments designed into the product and according to your marketing and sales strategy—while keeping the customer’s needs front and center—is a tall order. Yet it is imperative for supporting delivery of the right product at the right time. This type of engagement and process builds competence in timing and ensures reproducibility for the customer. Primary metrics used for planning include return on invested capital, cost of returned goods, inventory level (days’ sales in inventory, inventory turns, etc.), and on-time delivery.



Efficiency is focused in several areas: exchanging information with research and technical departments to optimize the process and maximize yields (while reducing waste); while engaging sales and marketing staff to support inventory planning and to develop appropriate site and resource needs, both short- and long-term. Adapting at all levels to the customer’s requirements is achieved by providing the best product for the money, including end-of-line needs such as packaging and delivery. This commitment to efficiency builds quality and value for the customer and throughout operations. Primary metrics used to measure efficiency include percent yield, cycle time, volume/dollars sales per direct-labor hour worked, return on invested capital, waste disposal costs, inventory levels, and on-time delivery.



Reproducibility is defined as consistently adhering to the processing and raw material requirements that were defined by research and technical departments, with repeatable results in the manufacture of a uniform product built to the customer’s exact specification. Done right, reproducibility will create goodwill with your customers, who will rank you as a qualified supplier, which, in turn, improves customer relations and ensures repeat business for your sales and marketing department. Primary metrics used to measure reproducibility are first-time right, rework costs, non-prime inventory levels, and on-time delivery


Performance benchmarks

It is important to use metrics that are industry benchmarks for performance. For example, we recently heard from a client who was receiving multiple, ongoing complaints about the long lead times for exported goods to its customers. Our client was baffled because their on-time shipment metric measured at over 96.5% (as depicted in Table 1).

Table 1:  2016 Shipment Metrics

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After investigating the claim, we learned that their internal standard for on-time deliveries was getting the material on a ship within 14 days of dispatch from the plant. While this metric was useful in uncovering delays with ship bookings, it missed the customer’s requirement of receiving their delivery on time. The appropriate metric would measure the lead time from order placement to shipment against the customer’s preferred delivery date. While their performance was indeed reasonable, as reported by their metric, it missed the fundamental requirement and caused customer dissatisfaction. The use of a new metric, performance vs. customer requested ship/delivery date, has helped the company understand and identify the root cause of its customer’s dissatisfaction.

In closing, remember that best practice means keeping your customer and your end-productrequirements front and center using the appropriate metrics and industry benchmarks to ensure reproducible quality on time and on budget.