Lightstone, Morris M. (1987, ASQC) Lightstone Associates, Birmingham, MI
The American automotive industry is undergoing great changes today, as a result of the intense foreign competition. This competition has created a very sharp focus on product quality and product cost. The industry has consequently mounted a vigorous campaign to improve quality and to be competitive. At the same time a program of intensive cost reduction has been undertaken to reduce the price differential between domestic and imported vehicles.Both of these efforts are having a drastic impact on the inspection function in U.S. automotive plants. Initially, there have been arbitrary reductions in the number of inspection operations and inspectors. This has been accompanied by major transfers of inspection operations to production operators.At the same time, there has been a re-awakening of interest in the use of statistical methods to control production processes and to prevent the manufacture of defective product, thereby reducing the need for inspection. The net result is a substantial reduction in the number of inspectors.
High-technology developments in the areas of metrology, gaging and data processing have created further opportunities to reduce the number of inspectors, while increasing the volume and validity of measurements and inspection operations. The advent of portable, programmable data collectors, transducerized gages, digital read-out gages, coordinate measuring machines, programmable laser beam checking fixtures, automatic in-line gages, scanner-digitizer-analyzer devices, in combination with microprocessors, mainframe computers and communication network systems, create the basis for automatic measurement, data recording, collection, analysis and dissemination, while reducing the inspection headcount to a historical low in the automotive industry.Both management and the inspector need to address the question of what happens to the surplus inspectors. From the inspector's point of view, this si the time for upgrading his skills by taking classes and training in the use of the new equipment, operation of microprocessors, application of statistical methods to process control, etc. From the management point of view, statistical process control will tend to uncover a large number of problems requiring correction on an immediate basis. The existing system for problem solving and corrective action will frequently be found to be inadequate to the task, requiring substantial strengthening and additional numbers of process probelm analysts. The newly displaced, surplus inspector is an ideal candidate for the job.