Automakers talked for years about zero defects as a worthy goal, but now it’s an absolute requirement, according to Dave Valletta, senior vice president of worldwide strategic sales at Vishay Intertechnology in Malvern, Penn.
“Customers tell us, ’10 parts per million, or even 10 parts per billion, multiplied by 500 components in a module’ gives them a real problem.
Valletta says zero defects, and the international quality standard TS16949 can’t be met simply by screening and testing “The quality has to be built-in, which affects the equipment and the processes, as well as the testing procedures we use.”
Vishay gets feedback from customers in real-time. “If a part fails, they tell us why, and we make a tweak in our process. It’s a matter of constantly honing processes.” Ongoing process improvement requires a significant investment for parts manufacturers that wish to retain automotive business. “Parts that would be more than satisfactory for mobile telecommunications or PC applications aren’t even close to meeting automotive requirements,” according to Valletta. What justifies the investment in equipment, processes and test procedures is the size of the automotive market, and its stability compared with the up/down spikes that component makers experience elsewhere.
The automotive market accounts for approximately 20% of Vishay’s business, according to Valletta. “We offer a diverse range of discrete semiconductors and passive components,” he says. “Our value-add is to do higher-end technology; really tough stuff. We’ve gravitated to markets that need that, and automotive is one of them.” Among the products Vishay sells for automotive applications are multilayer ceramic capacitors (MLCC) and WSL series metal strip resistors.
Competition is much more intense these days than it was a decade ago,” Says Valletta. “Ten years ago the industry was primarily captive, now the gloves are off. Visteon is still a big supplier to Ford, as Delphi is to General Motors, but neither of them have a lock on that business. The North American companies are going after business in Europe and Asia, and vice versa. It’s driven by economics, and the trend away from vertical integration. Companies want to focus on what they do best.”