Eliminating electronic device failures, as automakers are demanding under the rubric of Zero Defects, requires a holistic effort that spans product lifecycles from design concept through delivery and assembly.
”It means what it says,” noted Subramanyan "Dakshi" Dakshinamoorthy, vice president of Quality at Freescale Semiconductor (Austin, TX). “We no longer can use parts per-million or parts per-billion as a measure of quality. Even one failure is unacceptable. We don’t want automobiles stuck on a highway in the middle of the night.”
It’s easier to say zero defects than it is to deliver, but Dakshinamoorthy said Freescale has made a lot of progress since the goal was set a couple of years ago. “It’s a journey--we can never sit back and say that we’ve achieved zero defects. We have to be very vigilant, but it really can be done, and we have a lot of products going out now (with zero defects).”
The key to achieving the zero defects goal, Dakshinamoorthy said, is understanding clearly what the customer wants. Customers and suppliers both recognize the importance of good communication, and relationships have become much stronger as a result, he reported. “We exchange notes (with customers) more often, we meet more often, and we welcome customers in our factories.”
Dakshinamoorthy added that suppliers like Freescale are continually refining their design, manufacturing and testing processes. ”We’re more cognizant of previous shortcomings that allowed less than perfect products to go out. We take extreme care that we don’t miss a beat,” he noted.
Once a supplier knows what a customer wants, Dakshinamoorthy said the drill is to go back and look at what’s worked in the past, factor in the impact of any new tools that may be available, and design for manufacturability, which includes accounting for manufacturing variances. Testing occurs at every stage in the manufacturing process, but the more a supplier knows about a customer’s application, the more effectively the supplier can tailor testing to meet application requirements.
“Design, manufacturing and testing: The only way to achieve zero defects is to be good at all three, and to stay at it,” said Dakshinamoorthy. Freescale has made a considerable investment to achieve the zero standard. “Automakers are driving this now, but in a few years other manufacturers will be demanding the same thing,” he said. “What we’ve put in place will lift the entire supply chain.”