Supplier quality management in IPS – what’s new?
An extended understanding of quality management and partnership is intended to move both IPS suppliers and Daimler AG forward. How ? Florian Voigt explains: Since the middle of 2019, he and his QM team have been providing even more support, instruction, and transparency for successful IPS projects, services, and smooth vehicle production.
Mr. Voigt, you recently became the head of the Quality Management unit within IPS. What are your tasks?
My team and I are responsible for establishing a holistic quality management (QM) system in IPS. We are located at the company’s headquarters in Stuttgart, from where we work for all IPS procurement units worldwide. IPS introduced the first modules for analyzing supplier potential back in 2016. We will now continue to specifically develop these basic QM modules in the future, particularly since the automotive industry is undergoing fundamental transformation and our requirements have increased further as a result.
What does the assessment of supplier quality involve? What do you believe is the main benefit?
Daimler relies on the professional support of suppliers in a number of areas. They are our experts for tasks that we, as a vehicle manufacturer, are unable to cover on our own. However, successful cooperation means that we have to be very familiar with our partners. It is important to precisely scrutinize potential suppliers, particularly in the case of new projects. And this has to be done prior to contract completion. We can only exploit all potentials and avoid possible risks together if the partner’s understanding of quality and performance are appropriate. Always with the objective of guaranteeing smooth, efficient processes in our global vehicle production.
What was the impetus for extending the QM system at IPS?
Not only suppliers of component parts but also suppliers of goods which are not used in production contribute to the high process reliability that is required. We have seen this correlation time and again in the past, particularly during the construction of plants, buildings, and production systems as well as in the operation of logistics facilities. Emerging problems can hinder smooth production here and can often only be subsequently resolved through extremely costly last-minute actions. To avoid these risks, IPS established the first audits for assessing the quality of external partners three years ago.
Which QM fundamentals has IPS already been covering since 2016?
Initially, five quality engineers were responsible for QM at IPS. Many quality management tasks were also distributed across the procurement units. This is an enormous range of tasks in the global Daimler production network, so efforts were concentrated particularly on suppliers in the high-risk procurement areas mentioned previously: Construction/general services, production systems, and logistics. The auditors were already working closely together with IPS buyers, and the Planning and specialist units during the introductory phase. However, the topics were not yet bundled centrally at IPS.
What influence is automotive industry transformation having on requirements at IPS Quality Management?
Firstly, vehicles have to be developed increasingly faster and produced more flexibly. At the same time, customers expect our premium vehicles to deliver top quality. To meet all of these requirements, we have to recognize and rule out possible risks and warning signals in cooperation with external partners even earlier within IPS. Secondly, Daimler is currently working on new digital technologies such as apps for smartphone-controlled vehicle functions. At IPS, we not only require new QM methods but also an extended understanding of quality for these innovation topics.
Can you explain the new understanding of QM in greater detail?
On the basis of an example. A top supplier helped us to install a production system for new Mercedes-Benz car models. However, setting up the new systems in our plant did not initially progress as planned. The reason for this was a lack of communication concerning problems that had arisen – a disparity that occurred due to cultural differences. This means that we have to broaden our horizons in the future and take not only technical, functional topics into account but also interpersonal aspects. QM is intended to build bridges and foster exchange between Daimler buyers, specialist units, and suppliers. In this, our quality engineers regard themselves as intermediaries between the interests of the external IPS partners and the Daimler perspective.
We want to coalesce and grow together. In partnership-based teamwork, IPS suppliers and Daimler AG can effectively exploit all performance potentials. We can persist in meeting our customers' high standards of quality in the future if all of the parties involved specifically continue to develop.
And what quality expectations will IPS be making on external partners in the future in the light of this?
We regard suppliers as catalysts for Daimler, which is why we want to intermesh even more closely with them. In this partnership-based teamwork, we expect all parties involved to look at the bigger picture, actively collaborate, act with foresight, and apply their full potential for the success of the joint project.
How is your team addressing this comprehensive QM aspiration?
Since mid-2019, all QM topics have been bundled centrally for the first time in our special team, which we have specifically extended for this purpose. Today, ten auditors are dealing with areas such as automotive fluids, pre-assembly services, and vehicle apps, amongst others. Another employee scans the range of QM tasks to be able to pinpoint future priorities. The focal point of our work is prevention. We therefore actively accompany IPS projects and support all steps, also with a task force if necessary. In doing this, we work closely together with all parties involved: Across units, with clear responsibilities and short lines of communication. We have already enjoyed initial, positive experiences with our holistic system in a logistics contract award process at the Kecskemét plant.
Holistic potential analysis – what are the advantages for suppliers?
Close, early coordination creates transparency and security for all parties. We gain an insight into our external partners’ performance potential. And they know precisely what requirements we make on them. This common basis is particularly important in the development of digital services, because the biggest contrasts often occur in cooperation between Daimler, the global vehicle manufacturer, and small start-up companies. This new form of partnership enables all parties involved to develop optimal solutions while avoiding economic, technical, and time risks – and thereby offering our customers ‘The best or nothing’.