Increasing numbers of recalls burden manufacturers and suppliers with extremely high costs, especially in the automotive sector. 70 participants met during the 2nd Warranty Management Day in Geisenheim for a lively exchange of ideas about questions concerning warranty coverage and to discuss new approaches.
In his welcoming address, host Peter Mörs of the software manufacturer Babtec quoted Daimler head Dieter Zetsche: “Data will be a crucial fuel for the car of the future.” The processing and targeted analysis of data are a central cornerstone for success in warranty questions as well. Experts from all over Germany presented this and other factors on 29 September 2016 at Burg Schwarzenstein in Geisenheim in the Rheingau region.
Learning from mistakes
Wolfgang Münch from the consulting firm MP-BusinessManagement with headquarters in Aschaffenburg started off the day. In his speech with the title “Premium Quality – Aspiration vs. Reality,” he painted a gloomy picture, chronicling the current recalls of almost all major automobile manufacturers. In the U.S. in 2015, the recall rate, i.e. the number of affected vehicles per new registrations, was 262 percent; in statistical terms, every car had to go to the repair shop at least once within the warranty period. In light of increasing complexity and the heavy reliance of manufacturers on their suppliers, it can be assumed that these numbers will continue to grow in the future. Münch recommended some actions to counteract this trend. He emphasized the particularly important point of actively processing defects and – as difficult as it may be – also always extracting the positive aspects from warranty cases. He also stressed the importance of bundling acquired knowledge in a structured way and to integrate it into the development process in the context of “Lessons Learned.” As a result, central data sources would not only include the field data provided by manufacturers but also the opinions and information expressed by customers, especially on social media platforms.
Knowing more using Datachecker
Naya von Randow from the Technical University of Berlin also took the alarming recall numbers as an opportunity to look for new approaches. The research associate in the field of quality strategy and quality competence underscored the value of data as the “gold of the 21st century” and criticized the poor quality of data in many companies. In a worst-case scenario, this could lead to an impact on the business operations. Here the Datachecker tool developed at the university can provide a remedy. Using it, data can be examined for being up-to-date, completeness, relevance, consistency, reliability, and validity. Information amalgamated in this way could generate the knowledge necessary to preventively counteract recourse cases. It is also important, however, not only to examine your company’s own data but also to incorporate suppliers’ data and to network intelligently.
Advanced management of recourse claims
Become active early on was also the advice of attorney Daniel Wuhrmann from the law firm of Reusch Legal Consultants, which specializes in the automotive supplier industry and has locations in Berlin and Saarbrücken. In his talk he pleaded not to “get carried away with legalese” and asked in the light of increasingly complicated contractual texts: “What do they have to do with real life?” Not much, concluded the lawyer, which is why when writing contracts, you should pay attention to clear formulations. This applies just as much for warranty management. In the case of a recourse, a ten euro part could quickly become a 4,000 euro part, since not only the real value but also subsequent costs are relevant, e.g., due to replacement or visits to the repair shop. To preventively counteract disputes, all parties involved, among them also insurance companies, any internally affected departments as well as the automobile manufacturers themselves, should get actively involved during the writing of the contract. This might frequently lead to fierce debates, which, however, will always be worth it in the end to have had.
Time is the critical factor
Thomas Buda from ZF Friedrichshafen began his talk with a horror scenario for all automotive suppliers. The manufacturer calls up on Friday afternoon and sounds the alarm: “Your components are bad. They fail during normal driving. We’re thinking about a recall.” So what is to be done? Thomas Buda, who is currently responsible for quality in more than 40 plants, advises understanding the crisis as a “productive situation” as well as removing the “aftertaste of catastrophe” from it. Here time is the critical factor. Every second counts, since production has to be continued even in a crisis situation, possibly even of those parts that led to the problem. The most frequent pitfalls of warranty management, according to Thomas Buda, are poor communication, a wrong setting of priorities, no controlled procedure, and the mistaken belief that, even during the crisis, money has to be saved. Instead of panicking, organization and well-considered procedures are needed. The solution is a workflow-based defect management. With this, the problem can be pinpointed, defects limited, and immediate actions taken in a structured way.
Making data manageable
All presenters agreed that when addressing warranty coverage, the ability of managing data is playing an increasingly important role. In the closing talk, Dr. Andreas Braasch from the Institute for Quality and Reliability Management (IQZ) and Babtec product manager Katrin Stratmann presented a new software module for warranty management that enables users to do just that. The software is the result of an intensive exchange of ideas between both companies, in the context of which Dr Braasch’s many years of practical experience in the warranty field have been directly incorporated into the software’s development. Field data can be standardized and validated using the software. On this basis, extensive analyses can be run and depicted for example in the form of isochrone curves, which are customary in the warranty field.