Cutting Your Supplier’s Defect Rate
He works on the OEM side now, but when senior quality process specialist Ed Segaard got his start, it was in foundries. Now employed by a global manufacturer of hydraulic components, Segaard previously worked all over the shop floor in metalcasting facilities, from the core room to the lab, and as a quality engineer and quality manager.
Since joining his current employer in 2010, Segaard has taken on a role as his company’s “casting guy,” tackling the issues that arise when it comes to procuring metal castings for his company’s finished hydraulic components.
“Whatever the issue, they’d give it to the casting guy,” Segaard said. “Well, I took the issues and worked on them by asking, observing and persisting. My recently retired boss gave his team one rule: use data, logic and reason, which I integrated with my asking, observing and persisting.”
That approach has paid off. Segaard said his company’s supplier-caused defect rate has dropped from between 8,000-20,000 PPM to 3,100 PPM. A big part of that reduction, he said, has come from a focus on cutting casting scrap.
Casting Source: As the “casting guy” at your company, you knew you could reduce the defect rate in the parts you bought from metalcasters. So where did you start?
Segaard: I spent countless hours looking at scrap parts: date codes, impression numbers, parting lines, locators, shifts, etc. I spent just as much time talking to foundry engineers, quality guys, sales guys, plant managers and division VPs. What would we talk about? Always the issues—processes, revisions to processes, people. And a lot of asking, “Why?” I cannot say never, but I don’t remember conversations discussing how bad the vendor was. What good would that do? After all, they were vetted, chosen and released, right? Conversely, they also agreed to take us on as a customer. So if widget 123 was running 5% fallout after machining, is there a benefit to tell the supplier how bad he is? I say no.
Having been on the foundry side and taking the calls about how bad things are going gave me a different perspective. Instead of beating up on the foundries, I started with data, logic and reason. Needless to say, this was not a popular position for a new casting guy now in the pump business. But this basic premise was expected from the foundry, and from me—every time, every call and every visit. Moreover, it worked. Sometimes quickly, sometimes not. But it worked.
Casting Source: How widespread are these improvements? Is this one metalcaster, or many?
Segaard: That [reduction in supplier-caused defects] includes castings from 14 foundries, both foreign and domestic. And I’m pleased with all of them. They are vital to our business. For years, I was the guy at the foundry getting calls and emails from the customers. Those were never fun, and rarely, if ever, did I get a message saying, “Good job last month!” In fact, it was rare that I received any feedback, unless we had a major problem. That is not a good way to grow the relationship.
Casting Source: How do you grow a relationship with your vendors, and specifically, metalcasters?
Segaard: Good communication. We hear it a lot, don’t we? But is it practiced? Good communication is a process, and methods for communicating are more plentiful now than any time in history. What I hear, and I do hear it a lot, is that the foundry guys I work with wish all of their customers would communicate as I do. My take on that is, even though I may send many messages and a lot of pictures, the foundry appreciates it. Just stick with data, logic and reason. Ask each other questions and persist until there are answers. After all, how can we all get better if we don’t know how we are doing?
Casting Source: So, don’t be afraid to give feedback?
Segaard: I’m a firm believer in regular reporting and feedback. It works. It is easy. It is anticipated. After a while, it becomes expected. And every now and then a message saying, ‘Hey, widget 123 is running pretty good,’ goes a long way.
Click here to see this story as it appears in the January/February 2020 issue of Casting Source.