Common Parts, Common Problems

Takata recall magnifies risks of global automotive platforms, use of same suppliers

General Motors (GM), Ford, BMW, Honda, Toyota, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), Subaru, Mitsubishi, Diamler Trucks, Mazda and Nissan: 11 of the largest, most well-known automakers in the world continue to add models to a growing list of vehicles that contain potentially dangerous air bag inflators manufactured by auto parts supplier Takata Corp.

Japan-based Takata acknowledged last month its air bag inflators could explode when deployed and spew metal shrapnel at drivers and passengers. This admission resulted in a recall of 33.8 million vehicles in the United States and another 7 million worldwide—the largest auto recall in history and one of the largest consumer products recalls ever.

The problem already has been blamed for six deaths and 100 injuries, and a definitive root cause still hasn’t been identified. The focus of the investigation, however, has been on a propellant in the air bag inflators called ammonium nitrate, which can degrade over time and explode in certain conditions, such as high humidity. Takata said its analyses show a majority of cases involved the use of a batwing-shaped propellant wafer.

The widespread impact of the recall on so many makes and models points to the risks of a growing trend within the auto industry among others—globalization and adoption of global manufacturing platforms, which have resulted in greater product commonality in vehicles and the use of the same suppliers among automakers.

"A recall of this scope illustrates the potential for massive automaker expense and consumer inconvenience when a common, mass-produced part is defective," said Karl Brauer, a senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book. "Ironically, the use of common parts across markets and manufacturers is meant to save money, yet a recall of this size will cost the industry billions."1

Modularization, consolidation

The adoption of global platforms means automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEM) are increasing the number of models they offer while reducing the amount of vehicle architectures, or platforms, on which they build their models, meaning more models contain common parts.

According to research by consultant Andreas Radics, 24% of all manufactured vehicles in 2014 were built on 10 big platforms worldwide. That percentage could climb to 30% by 2020 and further increase the need for common parts that can be interchanged among various models.

Volkswagen was the first major OEM to adopt this concept on a large scale. The automaker can build more than 40 vehicle models on one platform—its front-wheel drive modular transverse matrix (MQB) architecture. The MQB platform standardizes the engine position and the distance between the front axle and pedal box. The width, length and wheelbase can change based on the model.

GM is moving from 30 core and regional platforms in 2010 to 26 in 2015, and eventually to four flexible platforms by 2025, according to a report by consulting firm Strategy&. Toyota, too, is rethinking and simplifying how it builds its vehicles by adopting a modular platform called the Toyota New Global Architecture, which maximizes the use of common parts.

The thought is that OEMs can achieve cost savings by adopting global platforms because sharing common components enhances flexibility, increases volume, streamlines product development, and allows for the costs of product development and manufacturing tools to be spread across more vehicles.

"There are significant savings in material costs, engineering costs, installation, investment and validation," said Volvo R&D chief Peter Mertens. "If you have one architecture and don’t have to do everything for each vehicle, you can save a lot."2

Last year, FCA said it will derive 95% of its vehicle production in 2018 from nine global platforms. It had 12 platforms in 2013. Sharing purchasing and engineering, FCA expects to save about $2 billion.

"The savings come in all these buckets," said Chrysler purchasing chief Scott Kunselman. "For [product] development, common platforms, common suppliers, economies of scale—I’m seeing [savings] in every instance."3

Another aspect of global platforms is the use of common suppliers across models and automakers. According to the Strategy& report, Ford plans to reduce its supplier base from 1,150 to 750, and other OEMs plan to do the same.

While using common parts and reducing suppliers can result in savings, it also means quality problems can have a larger impact. In the case of Takata, which controlled more than 30% of the air bag market, defective air bag inflators mass produced and placed in several models among 11 automakers have resulted in a huge and complex recall that could take years to complete.

Takata has said it can make millions of new air bags in a year but likely can’t produce the tens of millions needed to replace all the defective ones. As a result, some automakers have had to turn to other suppliers for replacements.

In addition, about 400,000 replacement air bags that had been installed to repair previously recalled vehicles will need to be replaced again because they contain the batwing-shaped propellant wafer that could be causing the problem.

Quality is paramount

To prevent more recalls like this in an era of increased globalization, modularization and consolidation among automakers and suppliers, consultant Radics said automakers and tier-one suppliers must integrate their quality managers even more into the product development process.

In addition, OEMs must work closely with suppliers to maintain quality standards. "When there are new product launches, we train our suppliers in the appropriate methods and processes when necessary and go into their factories to make sure there is a stable production process," said Sabine Woytowicz, regional quality director at Valeo, an automotive supplier in Germany.4

Radics said quality involvement must be taken even one step further as global platforms become the future of car manufacturing.

"Common parts with the same specifications from various countries and on different tools must be manufactured in a way that they are absolutely identical in quality," he said, "so that they can be installed at any other factory at any time."5

—compiled by Amanda Hankel, assistant editor


  1. Drew Harwell, "Flawed Takata Air Bags in 34 million Vehicles Lead to Biggest Recall in History," Washington Post, May 19, 2015, http://wapo.st/1KksMmQ.
  2. Nick Gibbs, "VW Extends Lead in Common Architectures—But There Are Risks," Automotive News Europe, June 6, 2013, http://bit.ly/1IpCZfo.
  3. David Sedgwick, "Carmakers Bet on Big Global Platforms to Cut Costs," Automotive News, Aug. 4, 2014, http://bit.ly/1QEZhvv.
  4. Wilhelm Missler, "With the Push for Standard Parts, Quality Is Key," Automotive News, Aug. 6, 2014, http://bit.ly/1HWzkmH.
  5. Ibid.


  • Agence France-Presse, "Takata Still Searching for ‘Root Cause’ of Deadly Airbags," June 3, 2015, http://yhoo.it/1F44pTs.
  • Atiyeh, Clifford and Rusty Blackwell, "Massive Takata Airbag Recall: Everything You Need to Know, Including Full List of Affected Vehicles," Car and Driver, June 5, 2015, http://bit.ly/1tnc5yX.
  • ConsumerReports.org, "Everything You Need to Know About the Takata Airbag Recall," June 5, 2015, http://bit.ly/1E8HOaC.
  • Greimel, Hans, "Toyota’s Massive Engine Overhaul," Automotive News, July 14, 2014, http://bit.ly/1IpDg23 (case sensitive).
  • Isidore, Chris, "Takata Recall Shock: Replacement Airbags Must be Replaced," CNNMoney, June 2, 2015, http://money.cnn.com/2015/06/02/autos/takata-airbag-recall.
  • Ivory, Danielle and Hiroko Tabuchi, "Takata Says it Will No Longer Make Side Inflater Linked to Airbag Defect," New York Times, June 1, 2015, http://nyti.ms/1FErRrZ.
  • Krisher, Tom, "General Motors, Subaru Models Added to Massive Takata Air Bag Recall," Associated Press, May 29, 2015, http://bit.ly/1FLs5fN.
  • Krisher, Tom, "Mazda Adds 540,000 Vehicles to Takata Air Bag Recall," Associated Press, http://abcn.ws/1GlyPG1 (case sensitive).
  • Rogers, Christina, "Volkswagen Plans 4 Million Cars From One Platform: VW’s Modular Unit Will Be the Basis for More Than 40 Models Worldwide," Autoweek, April 11, 2012, http://bit.ly/1F9ejmy.
  • Strategy&, "2015 Auto Industry Trends," www.strategyand.pwc.com/perspectives/2015-auto-trends.
  • Woodyard, Chris, "Automakers Add Millions More Cars to Takata Air Bag Recalls," USA Today, May 29, 2015, http://usat.ly/1KBX5GC.

Who’s Who In Q

NAME: Minda Chiang.


EDUCATION: Master’s degree in quality and reliability at the University of Warwick in Coventry, England.

INTRODUCTION TO QUALITY: Quality was introduced to Chiang during a food technology course in which a few modules mentioned quality and enlightened her about the importance of quality in food manufacturing.

CURRENT JOB: Quality assurance manager at HealthBaby Biotech Co. Ltd. in Hong Kong, which adopts advanced storage and processing equipment to ensure the life-long storage of customers’ stem cells.

PREVIOUS JOBS: Deputy quality assurance manager at Jean-Marie Pharmacal Co. Ltd. in Hong Kong. There, Chiang started her journey in developing, training, validating, maintaining and auditing good manufacturing practices (GMP) for manufacturing drugs in all major therapeutic categories, including injection products. She helped establish Hong Kong’s first sterile-injection production line, which met the health department’s GMP requirements. As a result, Hong Kong GMP certification was obtained for sterile and nonsterile operations in 2002. This experience led to an opportunity to lead a team to establish a quality system for a new biological drug and to pursue international qualification, including Pharmaceutical Inspection Cooperation/Scheme requirements.

ASQ ACTIVITIES: Chiang is honorary secretary of Hong Kong Society for Quality (HKSQ), assisting in organizing seminars and technical visits for members of HKSQ and ASQ in Hong Kong. She also acts as an assistant proctor for ASQ exams held in Hong Kong.

OTHER ACTIVITIES/ACHIEVEMENTS: In 2008, Chiang was named chartered quality professional by the Chartered Quality Institute. She also has taught quality management at universities for more than 10 years and has developed a short course on GMP and quality assurance for the pharmaceutical industry in Hong Kong, which she has conducted since 2013.

PUBLICATIONS: Chiang has co-authored two articles about water quality: "A Continuous Improvement Process at Severn Trent Water," TQM Magazine, 2002, Vol. 14, No. 5, pp. 284-292, and "The Use of MUG Supplement to Detect Escherichia Coli by the Multiple Tube Method in Marine Waters of Hong Kong," Marine Pollution Bulletin, 1999, Vol. 38, No. 10, pp. 921-924.

RECENT HONORS: Elected to ASQ’s 2014 class of fellows.

PERSONAL: Married.

FAVORITE WAYS TO RELAX: Having a hot cup of coffee outdoors.

QUALITY QUOTE: Ethics is the cornerstone of quality.


Argentinian Team Reaches Gold Status

Argentina’s Movistar-Telef—nica de Argentina "Weaving a Quality Network" team was awarded gold-level status at ASQ’s International Team Excellence Awards after showcasing how it improved its organization’s quality and efficiency.

ASQ announced the achievement—along with other winners—at its World Conference on Quality and Improvement in Nashville, TN, which was attended by nearly 3,000 people, the conference’s largest attendance since 2000. In the award’s 30th year, 36 finalist teams from 12 countries competed for gold, silver and bronze status.

Four other teams were recognized after achieving bronze-level status:

  • Alcoa—Power and Propulsion, "APP Process Management" team, Whitehall, MI.
  • BNY Mellon International Operations Private Ltd., GAMO, Pune, Maharashtra, India.
  • Movistar—Telef—nica de Argentina "You Can Do It!" team, Buenos Aires.
  • Wipro, Wipro PEX, Pune, Maharashtra, India.

For more information about the award recipients, the team excellence award process and how to participate in the 2015-2016 process, visit http://asq.org/wcqi/team-award.


Hromi, ASQ Past President and Honorary Member, Dies

John D. Hromi, an ASQ former president and honorary member, has died. He was 94.

Hromi was a professor emeritus for Rochester Institute of Technology’s Quality and Applied Statistics Center, which was named after him in 1992 because of his well-established reputation as an international authority in industrial statistics and quality control. He had worked at the New York university since 1981, having served as professor and the center’s executive director.

Hromi was named an honorary ASQ member in 2004 for his exemplary service as a practitioner, educator and consultant in the field of quality management and applied statistics principles and techniques. Hromi was named an ASQ fellow in 1961 and served as ASQ president in 1981. He was the recipient of the ASQ’s Grant and Lancaster awards in 1987 and 1996, respectively, its Edwards Medal in 1993 and its Distinguished Service Medal in 2001.

For more about Hromi’s selection as an ASQ honorary member, visit http://tinyurl.com/asq-hromi. For a complete obituary, visit http://tinyurl.com/hromi-obit.


26 Organizations Apply For 2015 Baldrige Award

The 26 organizations that have applied for the 2015 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award include two small businesses, four educational organizations, 16 healthcare organizations and four nonprofits.

Working in teams over the summer, members of the volunteer board of Baldrige examiners will evaluate applicant organizations against the seven categories of the 2015-2016 Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence: leadership, strategic planning, customer focus, measurement, analysis and knowledge management, workforce focus, operations focus and results.

In late August, the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program’s judges panel will determine which organizations will receive site visits by examiner teams to verify information in the application and clarify questions that come up during the review. From those site-visited organizations, the 2015 Baldrige Award recipients will be selected in November.

For more information about the award and program, visit www.nist.gov/baldrige.


Standards Channel Adds 4 New Videos to Collection

The ASQ Standards Channel has released four new videos—this time interviews with experts discussing the revision of the ISO 14001 environmental management standard.

The channel (http://videos.asq.org/asq-standards-channel)—launched earlier this year—already has more than 20 videos of standards experts discussing the basics and key changes of the ISO 9001 quality management standard revision. More bundles of videos are scheduled to be unveiled in the coming months as the revision’s formal release, slated for later this year, nears.

Those who watch the videos can earn 0.025 recertification units for every 15 minutes of footage they view.

Nonmembers’ cost is $30 per video, or $179 for a year of full access to the channel. ASQ members have full access to all of the videos.

ASQ News

NEW BALDRIGE JUDGES Two of the three new judges recently appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce to the Baldrige Panel of Judges are ASQ members Miriam Kmetzo, executive vice president of Welding Technology Corp. in Farmington Hills, MI, and John Timmerman, a senior strategist for customer experience and innovation at Gallup in Washington, D.C. Timmerman is also a past ASQ chair. Kmetzo and Timmerman were named to the panel in May. For information about the panel and the appointments, visit www.nist.gov/baldrige/new_judges_2015.cfm.

LEADERSHIP SCHOLARSHIP Katie Berman, vice president of implementation for an education technology company, has been awarded the first Paul Borawski Scholarship to support her participation in a year-long ASQ leadership development program. With the award, Berman, of Curriculum Advantage Inc. in Lawrenceville, GA, will be part of a 21-member cohort in the ASQ Emerging Quality Leaders Program, which will include corporate visits, leadership seminars, virtual coursework, mentor support and team projects. The scholarship is named for Borawski, who retired last year after leading ASQ in various roles for 27 years. For more information about the award, visit http://bit.ly/leadership-scholarship.

TCC EVENT SCHEDULED The second annual Joint Technical Communities Conference will be held Oct. 22-23 in Orlando, FL. The theme of the event is "Expanding the Gift of Quality." For details about keynote speakers and conference programs, visit http://asqtcconference.com.

AWARD APPLICATIONS AVAILABLE Nomination forms are now available for ASQ awards and scholarships to be presented at the 2016 ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement May 16-18 in Milwaukee. ASQ has established many awards to recognize individuals for superior achievements in the development, promotion, implementation and communication of quality information and technology. For more information, visit http://asq.org/about-asq/awards/index.html or email Karen Prosser at kprosser@asq.org. Nominations are due by Oct. 1.

INSPECTION CONFERENCE SET ASQ’s Inspection Division will hold its annual conference Sept. 10-11 at the University of Dayton in Ohio. Topics such as risk management, gage repeatability and reproducibility, calibration, and geometric dimensioning and tolerancing will be covered. For more information about the event, visit www.asq.org/inspect.

SCHOLARSHIP RECIPIENT ASQ’s Healthcare Division awarded its annual $2,000 Nightingale Scholarship to Erin Van Landingham, a graduate student studying dementia and aging at Texas State University in San Marcos. Van Landingham was recognized for demonstrating an outstanding commitment to pursuing quality improvement in the healthcare field. Visit http://bit.ly/asq-nightingale for more information about Van Landingham and the award.

29TH SALARY SURVEY OPENS QP’s 29th annual salary survey is being conducted the entire month of July. Visit www.qualityprogress.com and follow the link to take this year’s 10-minute survey. Results will be published in December’s QP.

ASQ Journal Spotlight

QP occasionally highlights an open-access article from one of ASQ’s seven other journals.

This month, read "Offshore Output," which appeared in the May edition of Six Sigma Forum Magazine (SSFM).

Authors Vijaya Sunder and Jiju Antony describe how a bank used lean Six Sigma to increase employee utilization in offshore operations.

To access the 13-page article in PDF format, click on the "Current Issue" link on SSFM’s webpage: http://asq.org/pub/sixsigma. From there, you also can find a link to information about subscribing to the quarterly publication.

Date in Quality History

QP occasionally looks back on an event or person that made a difference in the history of quality.

July 7, 1868

Frank Bunker Gilbreth Sr., an early advocate of scientific management and pioneer of motion study, was born on this date in Fairfield, ME.

When he was a young building contractor, Gilbreth looked for ways to make bricklaying faster and easier. Later, he studied the habits of manufacturing and clerical employees in all sorts of industries to increase output and make their jobs easier.

He and his wife, Lillian Moller Gilbreth, founded a management consulting firm, Gilbreth Inc., to teach managers that all aspects of the workplace should be constantly questioned and improvements constantly adopted.

Gilbreth is known as the first to propose that a surgical nurse serve as caddy (Gilbreth’s term) to a surgeon by handing surgical instruments to the surgeon as called for. Gilbreth’s work is often associated with that of Frederick W. Taylor.

Taylor, however, focused on reducing process time, while the Gilbreths sought to make processes more efficient by reducing the motions involved.

Gilbreth is also remembered as the father and central figure in the book Cheaper by the Dozen, written by his son, Frank Jr. The book inspired two films of the same name.



Survey Examines Nursing Practices in Hospitals

About 40% of hospitals do not comply with specific industry-endorsed safe practices related to the nursing workforce.

The 21 National Quality Forum (NQF)-endorsed safe practices on nursing weren’t always followed by the hospitals surveyed by the Leapfrog Group, a healthcare advocacy organization. The percentage of hospitals that achieved full compliance on the 21 nursing workforce safe practices did grow from 52% in 2013 to 60% in 2014.

The findings are based on data taken from the 2014 Leapfrog Hospital Survey of 1,501 U.S. hospitals.

For more specific information from the survey, visit www.leapfroggroup.org/cp.

Word to the Wise

To educate newcomers and refresh practitioners and professionals, QP occasionally features a quality term and definition.

Advanced product quality planning

High-level automotive process for product realization, from design through production part approval. Arranging machines in the correct process sequence, with operators remaining within the cell and materials presented to them from outside.


  • "Quality Glossary," Quality Progress, June 2007, p. 40.

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