DETROIT - Suppliers appear to be convinced that the Big Three's new quality standard for parts is not simply the latest flavor of the month. According to a recent survey by J.D. Power & Associates of 82 parts makers, 51 percent expect to complete their QS-9000 certification by the end of the year.
The QS-9000 standards are a key issue because Chrysler Corp. will require Tier 1 suppliers to be certified by July 31, 1997, and General Motors Corp. will require compliance six months later.
Some industry observers fear vendors will delay the year-long certification process, then stampede to meet the deadlines.
But the survey found that 8 percent of the suppliers in its sample already have been certified, while an additional 82 percent are working on it.
Those results parallel GM's own supplier surveys, which indicate most vendors will meet the deadlines.
``At this point, it doesn't look like we'll have a problem,'' said R. Dan Reid, GM's manager of supplier quality development.
Reid estimates that about 8,000 suppliers must implement the standards, and predicts that some, inevitably, will miss the deadlines.
``I don't think the world will cave in the first day after the deadline expires, but we are serious about it,'' he said.
GM will evaluate tardy suppliers on a case-by-case basis. Those companies may risk losing business, Reid said.
The QS-9000 standard dates back to 1994, when the Big Three adopted a common set of quality standards for their suppliers. Suppliers are required to document procedures for monitoring scrap, product defect rates, and other quality indicators. Once a company adopts the new procedures, an independent auditor inspects its plant and certifies - or flunks - the supplier.
The common standard means suppliers no longer have to submit to separate quality audits by each automaker - a time-consuming and costly process.
But the procedure itself can be time-consuming and expensive. Suppliers normally require 12-18 months to comply, while the auditor's inspection can cost $4,000-$20,000 per plant. Training programs and other related costs can push the price higher.
Because of that expense, Ford Motor Co. has not ordered its suppliers to undertake the special third-party audit.
``This is a whole new ball game, and no one knows what the outcome will be,'' said Stephen Walsh, manager of Ford's quality standards for suppliers.
``QS-9000 is not a free lunch. We want to be sure there is an acceptable cost-benefit tradeoff for the supplier,'' Walsh said.
The J.D. Power survey also revealed:
10 percent have not begun the certification process.
83 percent were very or somewhat satisfied with the process.
17 percent were dissatisfied.