Dealership Visits and “Control Towers” Boost Stellantis Quality Standards

During a conversation with Staff Reporter Vince Bond Jr., McDonald discussed the recent measures implemented at assembly plants to enhance quality. Here are some edited excerpts:

Q: How do you feel about achieving these significant gains while the industry as a whole is witnessing a decline in quality?

A: It is incredibly satisfying to witness the success of our proven recipe. Our company has a culture that prioritizes the customer above all else. Our customer experience motto emphasizes the importance of every customer and every journey. We have adopted the best practices, methods, and controls from esteemed companies like ex-PSA and ex-FCA. These practices are seamlessly integrated into our operations, and we consistently measure their effectiveness. It is not only gratifying to have Dodge ranked number one, Ram ranked number two, and Alfa ranked number three, but it is also an indication that we possess the knowledge and expertise to continue excelling as a company.

Regarding the brands that have experienced significant improvements, what factors contribute to these achievements?

At every level of our company, from top executives to floor team members, we maintain an unwavering commitment to quality. Quality is among our top two or three key metrics. We have learned valuable lessons from Europe, South America, and North America, and we ensure that our truly global company adopts the best practices from each region. Whenever we implement something successful in our plants, we promptly share it with others to enhance their operations as well.

Every plant is required to establish strong connections with three or four local dealerships. Engineers regularly visit these dealerships on Friday mornings to observe what customers and dealerships are experiencing. This information is then relayed back to the plant to inform quality improvements.

Another crucial development is the recent implementation of our control tower strategy. Previously, the corporate engineering group was responsible for quality control. However, with Stellantis, the assembly plants have become the focal point. All operations are now concentrated at the assembly plants. During our warranty blitz, all engineers and suppliers gather at the assembly plants. Additionally, we now have a control tower representative at every single assembly plant. Their responsibilities include addressing every quality-related claim and immediately establishing a clean or containment point if necessary. For instance, if a loose bolt is found in one vehicle, immediate containment measures are taken, even if it is an isolated incident. Having control tower personnel at the plants ensures they have a comprehensive understanding of the situation and facilitates quick containment on the assembly line. This initiative has significantly contributed to our substantial gains.

How long has the control tower strategy been in effect?

While we have always been focused on similar objectives, the efficiency of relaying information from corporate to the plants has improved with the physical presence of personnel at the plants. This change was implemented around eight to twelve months ago, providing the assurance that quality issues can be promptly addressed at the assembly plants.

You mentioned the importance of establishing close relationships between assembly plants and local dealerships. When did the company start prioritizing this practice?

This practice emerged as one of the best practices resulting from the merger of ex-PSA and ex-FCA, approximately a year ago. We have established a standardized approach and continuously add new elements. However, it takes time to ensure that every plant and every individual consistently execute these practices.

Dodge ranked number one this year. According to J.D. Power, brands with older models tend to perform better than brands with newer models. What does this say about Stellantis and its ability to uphold the quality of older platforms?

There is truth to this observation. In the automotive industry, nothing remains stagnant. However, we prioritize rigorous quality evaluation when introducing new elements.

When considering the average age of our portfolio, it aligns with the industry average, indicating that we do not have an excessively old or new lineup. Consequently, our overall achievements are on par with our competitors. While older products possess certain advantages, we have taken numerous measures to ensure that our quality standards remain impeccable when launching new vehicles. The dedication to quality for both older and new platforms is unquestionable.

How do you sustain this momentum?

The momentum we have achieved since 2020 is a result of our established formula. We have identified our rhythm and the key is to execute it consistently across all areas. Our approach is not based on radical change, but on the unwavering support we receive from leaders at every level. Each team member, whether in manufacturing, engineering, suppliers, or customer experience, plays a crucial role in doing the right thing and raising any issues. We continuously implement the best practices while making minor adjustments to enhance efficiency because the pace of progress is essential. Our internal metrics indicate that we are consistently improving. This achievement reaffirms our commitment to continual improvement. With the support of our leaders and team members, we will carry on executing our strategy and maintaining our exceptional quality standards.

 

Reference

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