Original Date: 10/27/2003
Revision Date: 01/18/2007
Best Practice : Product Improvement Team
Auto-Valve, Inc. takes a proactive approach to identifying and correcting design issues that affect product performance, cost, schedule, and customer satisfaction with its Product Improvement Team process. The Product Improvement Team process uses a formalized Design Review Process to capture and keep data organized and to optimize the Product Improvement Team’s overall effectiveness.
Auto-Valve, Inc. (AVI) takes a proactive approach to identifying and correcting design problems that affect product performance, cost, schedule, and customer satisfaction with its Product Improvement Team (PIT) process. The PIT process supplements AVI’s current Continuous Improvement Program (CIP) and uses a formalized Design Review Process to optimize its overall effectiveness.
Typically, product design improvements are driven by internal requirements that make the product more producible to reduce cost, increase performance, and improve reliability and safety. Other improvements that address a specific problem or a unique specification requirement may be customer driven. In the past, AVI’s PIT only addressed customers’ concerns to get assemblies shipped, usually resulting in quick fixes. Design changes and approval were limited to the Engineering and Operations managers with no input from other employees. Product design improvements in addressing internal requirements were reactive, not proactive. Often, opportunities for product improvements that impacted the company’s bottom line fell by the wayside. The standard practice was to make design changes only if there was a failure or a product return.
For many reasons and to meet the criteria for AS 9100 certification, AVI formalized its PIT process. In doing so, the company discovered the benefits of improving the PIT process and making it more proactive in serving the design improvement needs of the company and its customers. In April 2002, the new process was implemented incorporating AVI’s Design Review Process to optimize overall effectiveness. The Design Review Process collects product requirements, establishes design verification and validation plans, defines design change requests and evaluations, and documents design review updates, meeting guidelines, and meeting records. All contribute to the overall effectiveness of the PIT process to capture necessary data and keep it organized, something that was overlooked in the past. The PIT is cross-functional. The process and monthly meetings include Quality Assurance, Engineering, and Operations. Each design improvement opportunity is now an entry into the Design Review Process and is tracked through completion.
The PIT, better known internally as the “PIT Bulls,” follow a well thought out and executable process. The PIT is now more proactive in identifying and correcting design problems that improve the product performance, cost, and schedule, enabling AVI to be more responsive to customer concerns. Since implementing PIT, all departments have become involved, customer service and product acceptance have increased, and product returns have decreased.
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