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Appointment exam - improve communication with everyone involved

Time is a crucial success factor in projects. Particularly in the case of development projects in the automotive industry, the start of series production (Start of Production, in short: SOP) is generally considered a fixed date that can only be postponed in exceptional cases.

A development process results in many changes that increase the complexity of the project as well as the project risks and endanger the schedule. The complexity of development projects results from the interaction of the various components with one another: in addition to the change in functionality, a change can also result in a change in production at the subcontractor, which is only partially known to the system supplier in detail. The system supplier as the leading supplier, also called "Tier 1 supplier", the manufacturer of the automobile (Original Equipment Producer, in short: OEM), is required on the one hand to implement the changes and on the other hand to meet the deadlines, i.e. especially the SOP.

Often, the Tier 1 supplier's own added value (productive activity) is limited, so he needs powerful subcontractors, also called "Tier 2 suppliers", to manufacture all parts for the OEM. The dynamics of change in the project therefore require that all project participants who are affected by the respective change are informed promptly. The system supplier also frequently nominates new suppliers in order to spark competition among Tier 2 suppliers and subsequently save costs. New suppliers and sometimes also new, inexperienced employees sometimes lack the knowledge about important relationships and interactions. In order to compensate for this and to create an understanding of the crisis situation for all those involved, the exchange of information among those involved should be intensified.

In the project, the interface problems between the individual sub-suppliers, e.g. the changes to a sheet metal part to be able to connect it to a plastic part are often underestimated. Since the sequential clarification with each individual supplier is very time-consuming, the system supplier often agrees to a change without a complete risk assessment and consultation with his sub-suppliers. This is often a reason for a significant delay in delivery - tools or systems do not have the required level of maturity for series delivery.

The appointment exam is an opportunity to improve the understanding of the project and to clarify important measures at short notice. The transparency of the project complexity is increased, dependencies between the individual suppliers / plants are shown and measures can be coordinated with all decision-makers on site. Emotions can be reduced and identification with the project can be made easier. The exchange of experiences during lunch and coffee breaks also helps the participants develop a sense of wellbeing.

Interface problems can be explained in workshops, e.g. the effect of a change in radius on the number of processing stages (drawing stages) at the subcontractor. In general, the following applies to all formed parts on the car: the smaller the radii, the more difficult and complex it is to produce the parts, since more processing stages are required. In general, the effects of changes and measures to comply with the SOP can be worked on or developed there.

In order for the appointment exam to bring the greatest possible benefit to all involved, the event must be prepared accordingly and structured. This should be supported by the use of checklists and templates.

Organization and implementation

The organization and implementation of an appointment exam is an additional effort and leads to extraordinary demands, especially in crisis projects. In my experience, however, the benefits far outweigh them.
Frequent changes that are common in the development of automotive components increase the complexity of a project and endanger the SOP.
The key to project success is how the participants deal with the complexity. This requires a correct understanding of the project.
An appointment exam improves communication between all stakeholders. The knowledge and understanding of the needs and problems of all project participants increases and solutions can be found together. Connect commonalities discovered during the appointment exam and focus and motivation for project work are strengthened.

There are manufacturing processes that can only be shortened to a limited extent - if only because of the physical conditions. An appointment exam cannot change anything. Together with all stakeholders, however, in order to secure or shorten deadlines, parallel activities (e.g. start of tool design before the design freeze), use of additional resources (e.g. weekend work), refinement of the design (e.g. through the already mentioned enlargement of the radius) to simplify the forming process) and clarify open issues. These activities reduce the overall project risk and increase the chance of meeting deadlines or even shortening them.

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Dr.-Ing. Gerhard Graën PMP

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