Custom injection molder Topcraft Precision Molders Inc. found ways to exceed a customer's quality mandate last year.
Topcraft began supplying plastic components to Delphi Inc.'s Kokomo, Ind.-based Delphi Delco Electronic Systems division in February 2000 and embarked on improvements in late March 2001.
Since April 30, Topcraft has logged no defects in parts-per-million production for the customer.
Delphi had mandated that Topcraft have a plan by Aug. 31 to achieve zero-PPM defects. ``Our plan was in place June 1,'' Liz Griffiths, Topcraft's ISO/QS 9000 coordinator, said in an e-mail.
Warminster, Pa.-based Topcraft established a six-person problem-solving team that initially met two or three times a week. Now the team meets weekly with reports going to Delphi.
Visual improvements in the production area include color-coded bins, specialized productivity-oriented floor layout plans and, at work cells, laminated work instructions and digital photos.
``The control plans and [potential failure mode and effects analysis] for each Delphi part were reviewed and updated as required,'' Griffiths said, and ``we built additional test fixtures and go/no-go gauges for several parts.''
Greg Schwandt, senior quality engineer with the division's supplier development team, trained Topcraft employees in error-proofing techniques.
Later, two Topcraft employees met with a Delphi quality team at a Reynosa, Mexico, facility, to discuss assembly-related quality issues and view parts in use.
Prior to its ongoing zero-defect streak, Topcraft said its PPM-defect averages were 3,142 during July-December 2000, 165 in January 2001, 4,209 in February, 982 in March and 7,719 in April.
Topcraft has invested routinely in equipment, personnel and training for continuous improvements and, when the program began, shifted the focus of scheduled employee training classes toward defect-prevention and error-proofing techniques.
``No additional costs were necessary to implement this program,'' Griffiths said. Topcraft ``progressed from proactive to predictive to preventive actions during the past year.''
Topcraft is one of a dozen plastics molders among 25 firms in the Delphi division's group of commodity suppliers, Elvira Palmeda, the division's global manager for supplier development and quality engineering, said by telephone.
Delphi Delco Electronics' purchasing director presented Topcraft - alone among injection molders - a 2002 division commendation at a March 20 supplier event in McAllen, Texas. The award recognized Topcraft's ``significant improvement in quality performance.''
Topcraft President Paul Gandolfo spoke at the conference. ``The need for zero defect now is apparent in all facets of manufacturing,'' Gandolfo said. At Topcraft, ``participation started at the top and filtered down to everyone in the organization.''
Topcraft employs 100, operates 54 injection molding presses of 40-400 tons and had 2001 sales of $18 million.