'Another audit, another green light '!
For Aircom, production audits of our products, such as tire sealant and tire compressor, are part of the daily routine. Why are we doing them for? Why so often? Can it really be said that the tire repair kits only differ in size? These and other questions are answered by our quality guru, Quality Manager – Renata Artman.
Release of the process and production of a Tire Repair Kit
Mariusz Maćkowiak: Hi, I heard that we have undergone an audit for another car manufacturer from Germany, right?
Renata Artman: Yes, it was about the line and product release …
MM: Will you tell us what it means?
RA: When our partners “release” a process it is as if they are saying, “Yes! Are you ready. We want you to provide us with a product. “
MM: And we have already undergone such audits?
RA: Yes. Each of our recipients must ‘release’ both the process and the product. We want him to be sure of what quality of the product he receives and how it is prepared. Our partners expect that there are no threats to their customers in our process. They want us to deliver a good quality product in the right quantities, so they need to know how we verify it. We then present that we have appropriate procedures for what we do. We show what and how often we do, as well as our actions taken in crisis situations. This also applies to all documentation of such cases. All this guarantees their smooth supply.
MM: So every new product that we implement, such as a new bottle of tire sealant or a new compressor, must undergo such an audit?
RA: Yes. The first one I remember was the one made in 2014 for Volkswagen, which we scored with an A rating, very high for a new supplier in the automotive industry. Thanks to this, further cooperation with this brand could be based on the products sent for approval. In 2018, in connection with a new production line and a new wheel pumping compressor, another audit was carried out for this brand in which we also obtained the ‘green light.’
Repair kit for the first assembly - manufacturers' requirements
MM: Green light?
RA: Yes, feedback from audit commissioners usually appears as a percentage, ABC rating, or is expressed as a green light – willingness to release; yellow – we need improvement. So far, brands such as Volvo, Mercedes and the aforementioned Volkswagen group have positively assessed us.
MM: These are not only well-known car companies, but also very large groups ..
RA: Yes exactly. For example, Volkswagen’s portfolio includes brands such as Seat, Porsche, Skoda, Audi, and even Bugatti, so there are quite a few of these entities.
MM: I have to ask, which audit it was for you?
RA: (Laughter) I don’t know if I’m able to count them …
MM: Since there were so many of them, where do you see the biggest differences between audits for specific brands? Even if our devices look similar to the end customer, other requirements are certainly faced by Mercedes and other Volkswagen
RA: Each client has his ‘own things’ (laughs). One focuses more on statistical issues, the other on logistics, but it does not always depend on the recommendations of our partners, and often on the person who was entrusted with this audit. Different requirements may be specific to the customer. Several challenges emerged especially when we introduced the new SealAir2K. Our partners had different quality requirements, so for each audit we had to determine what tests our product must pass, and it is not just about chemical issues.
For example, when checking the tightness of a bottle, we close it in a suitable container, where during the test (depending on the partner’s requirements), the pressure up to 16 bars has to be tame. We understand that this may pose a risk to our employees, so such tests require appropriate instructions and safeguards. The end customer does not see how much work it takes. Fom them each of our new sealing sets is just a “similar box” (laughs)
MM: And in this particular audit, was there anything non-standard?
RA: No, but because we started planning the project in extraordinary times, the COVID pandemic forced us to change the date and form of the audit.
MM: What exactly do you mean?
RA: Never before has it been possible to connect with an online client “live”, to show off your production. Of course, we prepare various recordings for our clients, but in this case, there were some concerns about whether there would be transmission delays, and whether the image would be of appropriate quality.
Fortunately, a representative of this car manufacturer said that this is one of the best audits he has ever seen.
"Without their effort, nothing would have gone right"
MM: How many people take part in such an audit?
RA: Generally, they are representatives of the departments: quality, production, logistics, R&D and project management. However, if the auditor asks for details, e.g. about MSA (Measurment System Analysis), I designate an appropriate person to show this information. Our guests come here to see what we prepare for the live presentation. Therefore, depending on their questions, this number (of experts) may exceed a dozen or so people.
MM: Since the audit involves so many people, the human factor is important here. What was the atmosphere during the audit in your department? Have you found a moment to rest?
RA: There is always a feeling at the end that we are going in the right direction if we have managed to meet the client’s requirements. From the request for quotation to the finished product, each department has its own piece of work, and all people feel that thanks to team effort everything has gone right.
Production of Tire Mobility Kit - what does the process look like?
MM: This process must therefore be very long …
RA: Preparing a new product for a large project -where everyone has a piece to do. The construction begins, followed by Project Management, which defines all criteria and deadlines with clients, as well as costs. The boss (CEO – editor’s note) also participated in these conversations, and he is has a great role. Later, we organize a joint project meeting with logistics, production, and R&D.
Then, at the client’s difficulties, we determine what needs to be done to launch the product on the market and the challenges and challenges. We plan deadlines and work on the site, whether we need to build or additional equipment and what the tests looked like. It has to be admitted that one customer wants approval tests to be done only with us, the other one approves the product. We will only send it to an accredited laboratory, which also takes time.
So the laboratory and the quality department quickly get involved in the project. Together, we build documentation, including FMEA (Failure Mode and Effects Analysis), i.e. the effects that may occur in our process.
Logistics is also of great importance in this work. If we define anything wrong, the compressors may be damaged and will have complaints. During the audit process, logistics problems were particularly checked, especially how often the shipments to the customer would leave our factory.
MM: And you have been working in such a large team from the beginning?
RA: No, when we started in 2011, literally a few people were working on the products. Looking at our first compressor, the design itself started in 2012. At the end of 2013, we had a finished product. So in two years, we went from a white card to a finished product on the table.
MM: What happens then? We have a finished product, an audit carried out … and what next? Does it happen that there is no cooperation at this late stage?
RA: It has never happened that our partners gave up at this point. It is often too expensive to start all over again, so usually, after positive verification, we proceed to deliveries.
MM: Have you ever had a negative audit result?
RA: Hmm .. (thinks) no. There was one time when we were verified in yellow, so we came up with the actions we need to implement and after taking them we got the green light.