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Tower Automotive Ghent

Joke Vandemaele

17 Mar 2023

Various factory BAU and a process improvement team.

Case Study - Tower Automotive Ghent

May/June 2014

The client, Tower Automotive in Ghent, assembles doors, side panels, and other metal parts of several Volvo cars. It is a middle man factory: it receives pre-stamped parts from suppliers, and it sends assembled (welded, glued, etc) parts downstream to the Volvo factory where final assembly happens.

This is a modern facility, with a ratio of about 1:1 between industrial robots and factory floor workers. The work is highly automated.

The quality assurance process consists of detection, root cause analysis and resolution of manufacturing defects, or issues that could lead to manufacturing defects.

A “defect" is a part that does not meet specification. It might be a very evident defective part that is visible in plain sight, it might require detailed inspection, or it might be undetectable to the human eye/hand - requiring specialised machinery and analysis to be detected.

Defects might reappear regularly or randomly, or they might be one-off occurrences.

While Tower Automotive Ghent has a mature implementations of Lean Six Sigma in the factory floor, they lack a standard process for dealing with the defect and quality assurance process. Furthermore, plant personnel are still organised around functional/departmental silos (Production, Logistics, Quality, Safety, etc.) and do not handle the concept of cross functional teams. They also have the role of “Champions”. They implement A3 thinking for problem identification, root cause analysis and solving. Tower has also tried, and failed, to implement a disciplined traditional project management approach based on PMI. It was perceived that the approach was too slow and cumbersome for the dynamic factory environment. This leaves Tower without a practical approach to managing ongoing and future projects.

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