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Supplier Black Belt Program Contributes to Quality Gains at Chrysler Group

November 17, 2003

The Chrysler Group said on November 12 that its Supplier Black Belt quality program has led to millions of dollars of cost avoidance and quality improvements for both the Chrysler Group and participating suppliers. The program, used internally at Chrysler Group since 1999, has been offered to key suppliers since December, 2002. In less than a year, the Supplier Black Belt program has saved the 23 participating supplier companies several million dollars in reduced downtime, waste and warranty costs. Black Belt is a structured, disciplined, statistical approach to problem solving and reduction in variation. It is used in all phases of the vehicle development, production and customer satisfaction processes. Under the system, experts from multiple disciplines converge on a problem and work together to identify its cause and correct it, closing the project. These experts, called “Green Belts,” “Black Belts,” and “Master Black Belts,” are certified after going through extensive hands-on training and application. “Our suppliers provide about 70-percent of the components in our vehicles,” said Stephen Walukas, Vice President of Supplier Quality, Chrysler Group. “They have played a pivotal role in Chrysler Group’s overall quality improvements. The Black Belt program standardizes how we approach problem solving throughout the extended enterprise so that we can all ‘speak the same language’. It is a part of our move towards performance-based cooperation with suppliers.” Chrysler Group’s own use of the Black Belt program has enabled the company to avoid over $100 million dollars a year in costs since its inception in 1999, and the company is now closing one project every day. Suppliers of critical components are participating in the program. So far, those suppliers have closed 22 projects which have led to cost avoidance and improved quality for the suppliers. Chrysler Group will enroll an additional 40 suppliers in the Black Belt program next year, and five have already confirmed participation. While Chrysler Group pays for most of the training, suppliers realize internal cost savings, and both benefit from improved quality. “Black Belt has added another dimension to our ability to problem-solve processes related to manufacturing," said Roberts Abele, Director of Quality, North America, Siemens VDO Automotive. "In a field like automotive electronics, where 80 percent of our product portfolio transitions every two to three years, we have to execute our new product launches flawlessly, and Black Belt has been a welcome addition to our quality toolbox to solve those complex technical issues.”
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