Japan will hold its 61st national "Quality Month" in November and UD Trucks reaffirms its commitment to quality and going the extra mile to improve the quality across all of its processes, products and services.
Takuma Asano from the Technology Department, Naomi Aihara from the Purchasing Department and Hiroyuki Hosokawa from the Manufacturing Department share their thoughts about quality at UD Trucks and prospects for the future.
■How do you maintain a high level of quality in your work?
Asano: For technology, we work cross-functionally to make quality improvements our top priority. Until now we have been focused on the increasing the speed of our response to a problem. While that is still important, going forward we have embraced a mindset of managing quality in a premptive way – in short to be aware and identify issues before they happen.
Hosokawa: For manufacturing, we live and breathe monozukuri (manufacturing), with each individual employee emphasizing quality in the processes that he or she is responsible for. This helps ensure complete reliability in the back-end processes, especially those process that effect customers who are the end users. On the other hand, as a manufacturer, we acknowledge that it is almost impossible to be fully immune from quality issues. It is essential to deal with any quality defects quickly, and to thoroughly address even the tiniest issue. We adhere to quality management standards such as ISO 9001 certification and systematically share knowledge and information in a timely manner, all with the strong support of our management teams.
Aihara: For procurement, we work closely with suppliers to ensure quality. The last thing we want to do is inconvenience our key stakeholders - especially the operations teams. We concentrate on continuous improvements and ”preventive quality”. We work to understand the associated risks, such as the probability of a problem occurring suddenly at a supplier that has never had an issue before, by communicating with them on a daily basis and conducting on-site inspections. As our procurement network expands globally, we need to be fully aware of the differences in quality standards required in each country to secure higher quality.
■How does quality relate to the company’s digital transformation?
Aihara: We are always looking at new ways of communicating with suppliers by utilizing digital tools such as webcasts and Mentimeter. This is important when face-to-face contact is limited due to precautions around COVID-19 for instance. Using digital tools we are able to quickly share defective parts information and improvement processes regardless of location. As a trial, we started to inspect and approve parts in virtual environments. We would like to seek the most flexible and sustainable way to manage our supply chain by using a mix of face-to-face and digital approaches.
Asano: For technology, we need to change from a reactive to proactive approach to manage quality better. Digital tools enable us to do this. For example we use wearable cameras to speed up our communication with engineers on the ground, which results in fast vehicle maintenance and repair times. Moreover, by analyzing and sharing the data we receive via telematics, we can shorten the leadtime of repairs.
Hosokawa: For manufacturing, we introduced digital tools to monitor equipment in real time to ensure everything runs at optimal levels, something which was done manually before. We analyze the risk of defects, and conduct repairs and maintenance in a preventive way. We are also concentrating on preventive quality management by increasing the traceability of parts.
■How can UD Trucks be resilient in the face of change?
Hosokawa: We currently have plants in Ageo Japan, Bangkok Thailand, and Pretoria South Africa. We are discussing how we can better manage these plants in a way that can successfully adopt and transform. We are becoming more unified as an organization as we deepen our level of communication with each other.
Asano: I believe that the best value we can provide to our customers is zero vehicle downtime. There has been steady progress in shortening the lead time between initial vehicle trouble and repairs, by using tools such as remote diagnostics, real-time information tracking, and other information sharing technology. While the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and other digital tools will become more commonplace in the future, I believe it is important to always keep the customer's point of view in mind, to embrace change, and to foster a spirit of going the extra mile to turn change into opportunity.
Aihara: I believe that we can build a sustainable and resilient procurement network that can deal with any challenge by utilizing our global networks. From the perspective of providing new value to our customers and society, as the pace of technological change in the automotive industry accelerates, we aim to build a structure that can keep pace with the speed of change by utilizing digital tools more effectively. We will continue to challenge ourselves together with our supply chain partners to grow our business and provide the best quality solutions possible
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UD Trucks is a leading Japanese commercial vehicle solutions provider, active in more than 60 countries on all continents. Since its inception in 1935, the company has been an innovation leader with a clear vision to provide the trucks and services the world needs today. The company is committed to go the extra mile for smart logistics with the most dependable solutions for demanding customers. To best support across applications and geographies, UD Trucks offers a full range of heavy duty trucks - Quon and Quester, medium duty trucks - Condor and Croner, and light duty trucks - Kazet and Kuzer, as well as associated operational and financial services.
UD Trucks is a proud member of the Volvo Group, which in 2019 had net sales of 432 BSEK and over 100,000 employees globally.