In the context of IATF 16949, which is the automotive industry’s quality management standard, the handling of customer complaints is a critical component of the quality management system. Effective management of customer complaints helps organizations address issues, improve products and processes, and enhance customer satisfaction. Here’s how customer complaints are typically managed in compliance with IATF 16949. Establish a formal process for receiving and registering customer complaints. Designate responsible personnel to handle complaint intake and ensure that all relevant information is accurately documented. Classify and categorize customer complaints based on factors such as the nature of the issue, product or service involved, severity, and potential impact on safety and quality. Initiate a comprehensive investigation into the root cause of the complaint. Use methodologies such as the 8D (Eight Disciplines) problem-solving process or other recognized problem-solving approaches. Involve cross-functional teams, including engineering, quality, manufacturing, and relevant stakeholders, to collaboratively analyze the issue and identify its underlying causes. Implement immediate corrective actions to address the identified root cause and prevent recurrence of the issue. Take steps to contain and mitigate the impact of the problem. Maintain open and transparent communication with the customer throughout the investigation and resolution process. Provide timely updates on the progress of corrective actions. If the complaint reveals a design flaw or manufacturing process issue, provide feedback to design and production teams to drive improvements. Develop and implement long-term corrective actions to address systemic issues and prevent similar complaints from occurring in the future. Monitor the effectiveness of implemented corrective actions through ongoing verification and validation. Ensure that the issue has been fully resolved and no further recurrence is observed. Maintain detailed documentation of the entire complaint handling process, including complaint details, investigation findings, corrective actions, and verification results. Analyze customer complaint data to identify trends, patterns, and common issues. Use this analysis to drive continuous improvement efforts. Implement mechanisms to capture customer feedback, whether positive or negative, and integrate this feedback into product development and improvement processes.
Training and Awareness: Provide training to employees involved in handling customer complaints to ensure they are equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge. Include customer complaint management as part of your organization’s internal audit process to verify compliance with IATF 16949 requirements. Effectively managing customer complaints in accordance with IATF 16949 not only ensures compliance with quality standards but also contributes to improved product quality, customer satisfaction, and overall business success in the automotive industry.
Field Failure Analysis
Field failure analysis involves collaboration between customers and suppliers to analyze returned failed components, particularly those with no-fault found reports. It is suitable for the entire supply chain, including original equipment manufacturers (OEM) and suppliers. It provides discrete steps, defined procedures, and a clear allocation of responsibilities.
When a component failure occurs ‘in the field,’ the defective part is replaced, and the manufacturer (OEM) or supplier may request their return to allow analysis. There is often no fault found during the analysis. In the past, suppliers or the OEM took no further action. But that had to change. The objective of the FFA was to establish the reason for removing a field failed part from a vehicle, identify the root cause of the failure, and implement corrective actions. A subsequent process was designed to address the no-fault-found parts once they trigger an agreed threshold.
The steps of the FFA process
Field failure analysis follows an escalating test philosophy to ensure a rigorous analysis, but one that can be economically justified.
Phase #1: Part analysis
The FFA process begins upon receipt of a defective part from the field and involves a part analysis. The part analysis takes place in three discrete steps: standard tests, complaint evaluation, and tests under load.
1a: Standard tests
The standard test begins with a comprehensive visual inspection before testing the component at ambient temperatures and in an environment that mirrors in-service conditions, including loads. All tests must follow accepted test methods and use unambiguous test criteria, with all normal tests fully completed. Identification of a fault is not a reason to prematurely cease testing. The person carrying out the tests should carefully document the process, findings, and observations. Standard and load tests should not damage the inspected part so it can be re-installed into the machine for further testing. This is why destructive testing is avoided (unless the supplier and the customer specifically agree to it).
1.b: Failure complaint evaluation
An explicit fault description must accompany any part received from the field. After completing the standard test, the testing team will evaluate the complaint or fault description, and any faults found are checked for plausibility against the customer’s complaint. If the fault is proven, the FFA process proceeds to a problem-solving process. If no faults are detected or the failure found does not align with the original complaint, the testing team will plan additional specific load tests to elicit the original failure.
1.c: Load tests
Proceeding to the load testing phase assumes the standard tests found no fault, or the identified faults do not accord with the customer complaint. The test plan must be agreed on, based on the component design parameters and requirements specifications. It must ensure the testing is equivalent to the environmental and in-operation conditions, including humidity, speeds, voltages, and physical loads. Extra load parameters should form part of the test plan to evoke the defects highlighted in the complaint.If a fault is proven, the FFA process proceeds to a product-handling procedure, with the component tagged as ‘not in order,’ or N.I.O. Tagging a part as N.I.O does not mean the customer complaint is proven, simply that testing found a fault. Those parts with no proven faults are tagged as ‘in order,’ or I.O., based on part analysis. The I.O. tag does not mean the part is serviceable, simply that testing failed to elicit a fault. If the triggering criteria are met for parts tagged as I.O., the defective part proceeds to the NTF or ‘no trouble found’ phase; if not, the part passes to a product handling procedure.Completing the load tests is an inflection point, determining whether the component proceeds to a product handling procedure as an individual failure or triggers the NTF process to investigate possible systemic or process defects due to the number or importance of the failures.The NTF trigger is an agreed metric between the parties involved, usually the supplier and OEM. It may be an agreed threshold of parts reported as ‘in order’ following the part analysis, based on the number of complaints received from a customer or any faults that arise from a new component or product launch.
Phase #2: The NTF process
The NTF process comprises of three distinct but highly iterative stages, making it incorrect to consider them a linear progression. Instead, you should look at them as three corners of a triangle, in the center of which lies the answer.
2a: Data collection and evaluation
The data collection and evaluation stage involves each party in the NTF process carrying out data collection and evaluation related to their area of responsibility. This stage is wide-ranging and may include failure databases, the geographic specificity of failure, service and repair data, or production process information. Evaluation techniques can include statistical analysis, equipment history, correlations between failure rates and production changes, or failures due to mileage.
2b: System tests
The system tests are a more comprehensive and wider-ranging version of the load tests. They may include involvement from outside testing laboratories, aging tests, functional tests under varying loads, or tests in the vehicle producing the problems. Rather than focus solely on the component, the system tests investigate relationships and active connections within the system.
2c: Process study
The process study investigates interface issues between organizations and systemic problems in programming, diagnosis, or equipment and parts manuals. It may also investigate possible influences from peripheral components that might impact the failure, such as seals, hoses, clamps, or electrical connectors. If the NTF process has failed to identify an issue, all parties must agree whether to continue with further analysis or document and conclude the process. If the NTF process identifies the problem, the FFA proceeds to the problem-solving stage.
Phase #3: Problem solving
The automobile industry uses the 8D method for sustainable problem-solving. However, for this stage, an organization may use any of the root cause analysis process they are familiar with.The 8D method uses the following steps:
- Assemble the team
- Describe the problem
- Contain the problem – isolate from client impact
- Carry out a root cause analysis
- Plan permanent corrective actions
- Implement and validate permanent corrective actions
- Prevent recurrence
- Recognize team contributions
The OEM will usually initiate the FFA process, as they will receive the warranty returns or defective parts. However, the supplier should begin their part of the process the moment they receive defective parts into their stores’ system. Under the FFA procedure, a supplier has strict responsibilities to quarantine, document, track, and preserve the defective parts to ensure a rigorous chain of custody.The FFA procedure is collaborative and depends on the context of the failure, with all parties agreeing on who will lead the process and who will take part, as well as the responsibilities and deliverables of all parties. Much of the process will require the involvement of all parties, with one nominated to take the lead. The data management and collection process underpins the integrity of the FFA process. This process revolves around two principles:
- The first is a rigorous and documented chain of custody and evidence preservation management system that starts upon receipt of the part from the field and does not end until its disposal.
- The second principle is that once a part failure is found, at any point in the FFA process, it is declared defective regardless of whether the failure can or cannot be reproduced.
To ensure a meaningful analysis, upon receipt of a defective part, the supplier or OEM must implement a system of traceability that will follow the part through the FFA and which may be examined at any point to understand the component’s test status. The item must be reliably marked and retained in a quarantine area to prevent it from being returned to service, sold, or destroyed. To prevent affecting the investigation process, the supplier or OEM must exercise care not to clean, modify, or damage the component, unless such cleaning or modification forms part of the formal FFA procedure agreed upon by the parties.The outlined field failure analysis process provides a useful template for other industries and manufacturers who wish to stop spending money on warranty returns and product recalls. Implementing such a strictly controlled and documented process removes subjectivity and external influence from product investigations and testing. It provides a scientific and systematic approach for applying corrective actions and building quality into existing products.
10.2.6 Customer complaints and field failure test analysis
The organization are to perform analysis on customer complaints and field failures, including any returned parts, and initiate problem solving and corrective action to prevent recurrence. Where requested by the customer, this shall include analysis of the interaction of embedded software of the organization’s product within the system of the final customer’s product. The organization shall communicate the results of testing/analysis to the customer and also within the organization.
Performing analysis on customer complaints and initiating problem-solving and corrective action is a fundamental practice in quality management, especially in compliance with standards like IATF 16949. This approach helps organizations identify the root causes of issues, implement effective solutions, and prevent the recurrence of similar problems. Here’s how the process can be structured:
- Complaint Analysis: Collect and gather detailed information about the customer complaint. This includes the nature of the issue, product details, circumstances, and any supporting evidence provided by the customer.
- Problem Identification: Analyze the complaint data to identify the specific problem or nonconformity that led to the customer’s concern. Determine whether the issue is related to design, production, service, or other aspects.
- Root Cause Analysis: Perform a thorough root cause analysis using appropriate methodologies such as the 5 Whys, Fishbone diagrams (Ishikawa), Fault Tree Analysis, or Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA). Identify the underlying factors contributing to the issue.
- Cross-Functional Collaboration: Involve relevant teams and departments, such as engineering, manufacturing, quality, and customer service, in the analysis process. Collaborative efforts enhance the accuracy of root cause identification.
- Immediate Corrective Action: Implement immediate corrective actions to address the identified root cause and prevent the issue from affecting other products or processes. This may involve containment measures to prevent further occurrences.
- Long-Term Corrective Action: Develop and implement long-term corrective actions that address systemic issues and prevent the recurrence of similar problems. Focus on process improvements, design enhancements, or training.
- Validation and Testing: Verify the effectiveness of the corrective actions through testing or validation. Ensure that the implemented solutions successfully address the root cause and produce the desired results.
- Documentation and Reporting: Document the entire analysis process, root cause findings, corrective actions taken, and their outcomes. Maintain accurate records for future reference, audits, and continuous improvement.
- Communication with Customer: Maintain transparent and consistent communication with the customer. Provide updates on the analysis progress, actions taken, and expected resolutions. Seek their feedback and input.
- Feedback Loop: Integrate the lessons learned from the analysis and corrective action into your organization’s continuous improvement efforts. Apply insights to enhance product design, manufacturing processes, and overall quality.
- Training and Skill Development: Ensure that employees involved in the analysis and corrective action process have the necessary skills and training to perform effective root cause analysis and problem-solving.
- Audit and Verification: By systematically performing analysis on customer complaints, identifying root causes, and implementing appropriate corrective actions, the organization not only resolves immediate concerns but also strengthens its overall quality management system. This approach aligns with the principles of IATF 16949 and contributes to delivering high-quality products and services that meet or exceed customer expectations.
Performing analysis on field failure test results and initiating problem-solving and corrective action is a crucial aspect of quality management and continuous improvement, particularly in industries like automotive where product reliability and safety are paramount. Here’s how the process can be structured:
- Field Failure Test Analysis: Gather data and information from field failure tests, which involve real-world conditions and usage scenarios. This data can include failure rates, patterns, and other relevant information.
- Data Collection and Segmentation: Collect detailed data on field failures, including product details, failure modes, locations, and environmental conditions. Segment the data based on factors such as product models, batches, or geographical regions.
- Root Cause Analysis: Analyze the field failure data to identify root causes of the failures. Use techniques like the 5 Whys, Fishbone diagrams, or Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA) to determine underlying factors.
- Cross-Functional Collaboration: Collaborate across departments, including engineering, manufacturing, quality, and testing, to collectively analyze the field failure data. Different perspectives can lead to more accurate root cause identification.
- Immediate Corrective Action: Implement immediate corrective actions to address the root causes of identified failures. Focus on containing and preventing further occurrences of the same issues.
- Long-Term Corrective Action: Develop and implement long-term corrective actions that address systemic issues to prevent recurrence. This may involve design changes, process improvements, or material upgrades.
- Validation and Testing: Verify the effectiveness of corrective actions through additional testing or validation. Ensure that the implemented solutions successfully resolve the identified root causes.
- Documentation and Reporting: Document the entire analysis process, root cause findings, corrective actions taken, and validation results. Maintain accurate records for future reference and audits.
- Communication and Reporting: Communicate the analysis findings, corrective actions, and outcomes to relevant stakeholders, including management, design teams, and customers if necessary.
- Feedback Loop and Continuous Improvement: Incorporate the lessons learned from the field failure test analysis into your organization’s continuous improvement efforts. Use insights to drive enhancements in product design, manufacturing, and quality control.
- Training and Skill Development: Provide training to employees involved in the analysis and corrective action process to ensure they have the necessary skills for effective root cause analysis and problem-solving.
- Audit and Verification: Include the field failure test analysis and corrective action process in your internal audit program to verify compliance with quality standards and the organization’s quality management system.
By systematically analyzing field failure test results, identifying root causes, and implementing appropriate corrective actions, the organization can enhance product reliability, safety, and customer satisfaction. This approach aligns with the principles of quality management and contributes to delivering products that meet or exceed customer expectations in industries like automotive.
When requested by the customer, conducting an analysis of the interaction of embedded software of the organization’s product within the system of the final customer’s product is an important step to ensure that the software functions correctly and seamlessly within the larger context. This is particularly relevant in industries where embedded software plays a critical role in the operation, functionality, and safety of products. Here’s how you can approach this requirement:
- Customer Requirement Clarification: Clearly understand and document the specific customer request for analyzing the interaction of embedded software within the final customer’s product system. Seek clarification if needed to ensure alignment.
- Identify Scope and Boundaries:Define the scope of the analysis, including the embedded software components to be considered, the final customer’s product system, and any specific interfaces or interactions to be studied.
- Collaboration with Customer: Establish open communication and collaboration with the customer to gather relevant information about the final product system, its requirements, interfaces, and expected behavior.
- Embedded Software Assessment: Evaluate the embedded software components in terms of their compatibility, functionality, and performance within the larger system. Identify any potential points of interaction, integration challenges, or areas of concern.
- Interoperability Testing: Perform interoperability testing to verify that the embedded software interacts as intended with other components of the final customer’s product system. This may involve functional, interface, and performance testing.
- Risk Assessment: Assess the potential risks associated with the embedded software’s interaction within the larger system. Identify any potential vulnerabilities, compatibility issues, or risks that may arise.
- Root Cause Analysis: If any issues or discrepancies are identified, conduct root cause analysis to determine the underlying causes of the problems. This may involve analyzing software code, system configurations, or communication protocols.
- Corrective and Preventive Actions: Develop and implement corrective actions to address any identified issues or risks. Focus on ensuring that the embedded software performs optimally within the final product system.
- Validation and Verification:Validate the effectiveness of corrective actions through testing and verification. Ensure that the embedded software’s interaction with the larger system has been improved and optimized
- Documentation and Reporting: Document the entire analysis process, including findings, actions taken, testing results, and validation outcomes. Maintain detailed records for future reference and audits.
- Customer Communication: Provide the customer with comprehensive reports and updates on the analysis process, outcomes, and any actions taken to enhance the embedded software’s performance within their product system.
- Continuous Improvement: Incorporate the insights gained from the analysis into your organization’s continuous improvement efforts. Apply lessons learned to enhance software design, development processes, and system integration.
- Training and Expertise:Ensure that the team members responsible for conducting the analysis have the necessary expertise in software engineering, system integration, and quality management.
By conducting a thorough analysis of the interaction of embedded software within the final customer’s product system, the organization demonstrates its commitment to meeting customer requirements and ensuring the reliable and effective operation of its products. This approach aligns with the principles of quality management and customer satisfaction, contributing to the organization’s success in delivering high-quality products with embedded software components.
Communicate the results of testing/analysis
Communicating the results of testing and analysis to both the customer and within the organization is a crucial aspect of quality management and transparency. Effective communication ensures that all relevant stakeholders are informed about the outcomes, allowing for informed decision-making, continuous improvement, and alignment with customer expectations. Here’s how you can approach this communication process:
- Customer Communication: Prepare a comprehensive report detailing the results of the testing or analysis. The report should include clear and concise information about the purpose of the analysis, methodologies used, findings, any identified issues, corrective actions taken, and validation outcomes. Tailor the communication to the customer’s needs and preferences. Provide the information in a format that is easily understandable and relevant to the customer’s perspective.
- Timely Updates: Communicate the results in a timely manner to ensure that the customer is promptly informed about the outcomes. Timeliness is especially important if the analysis reveals any critical issues that may impact the customer’s operations or decisions.
- Transparency and Accuracy: Be transparent and honest in presenting the results, both positive and negative. Accurate reporting builds trust and credibility with the customer.
- Clarification and Q&A: Be available to address any questions or concerns the customer may have about the testing/analysis results. Provide clarification as needed to ensure that the customer fully understands the findings and implications.
- Documentation Sharing: Provide the customer with copies of the detailed analysis report, as well as any relevant documentation such as test protocols, validation results, and corrective action plans.
- Internal Communication: Within the organization, disseminate the results of testing/analysis to relevant departments and teams. This ensures that all stakeholders are aware of the outcomes and can contribute to follow-up actions and improvements.
- Cross-Functional Collaboration: Engage cross-functional teams within the organization to share the results. This may involve quality, engineering, manufacturing, design, and other relevant departments.
- Learning and Improvement: Encourage internal discussions and meetings to review the results and identify opportunities for improvement. Use the insights gained from the analysis to drive continuous improvement efforts.
- Action Plans: Develop action plans based on the analysis results, whether it involves implementing corrective actions, making design improvements, or enhancing testing methodologies.
- Training and Awareness: Provide training and awareness sessions within the organization to ensure that employees understand the significance of the analysis results and their role in implementing follow-up actions.
- Documentation and Records: Maintain accurate and well-organized records of the testing/analysis results, communication with the customer, and internal discussions. Proper documentation supports accountability and auditability.
- Feedback Loop: Establish a feedback loop with the customer to ensure that they are satisfied with the communication and that the results align with their expectations.
By effectively communicating the results of testing and analysis both to the customer and within the organization, you demonstrate a commitment to transparency, accountability, and continuous improvement. This approach aligns with the principles of quality management and contributes to building strong relationships with customers and internal stakeholders.