Engineering organizations have multiple challenges to deliver quality products on time, with quality concerns before, during, and even after production being high. Most OEMs attribute shipment delays to production non-conformances. Companies that do not achieve targeted shipments see piling work-in-progress inventory, upset customer, and stressed employees. When a product or process fails to meet the desired specifications, quality management standards require that a non-conformance be logged, investigated and resolved in a systematic, documented manner. Engineering investigations, specialist approvals, rework, scrap, change documentation and communication – all these come with a cost and quite high at that. Non-conformances also drain the best resources, dent productivity, and consume significant management bandwidth. Timely resolution of non-conformances is critical to product integrity and reputation and accelerates shipment. Managing non-conformances has always been hard, and is a regular source of inefficiency and irritation for manufacturers. The available options are – insource, outsource, and a combination of both. Business leaders have been seeking tangible answers to take decisions. We try to answer some of their questions here from our experience in non-conformance management.

Can we outsource the process? If yes, how much?

Of course you can. Extent of outsourcing is typically based on your need to preserve your own engineers for your core R&D. Today, we help a world renowned aircraft manufacturer, with the most modern and comprehensive aircraft family manage 100% of the non-conformances (they call it concessions) identified during their wing assembly process. Historically, they have used expensive resources locally to do the same job. 100% non-conformances were transitioned into QuEST over 3 years across 3 aircraft programs.

How painful it is to transition the work to a service provider?

Any transition requires significant investment of time and efforts. Our solution to fully transition the non-conformance workstream is built on a strong foundation of capability, continuous process improvement, metrics driven performance, and joint governance. We at QuEST, are therefore well equipped to offer non-conformance as a fully managed service, minimizing your drag to a great extent. Here’s how we went about transitioning with the aircraft manufacturer.

We established a local office right next to the customer’s manufacturing facility and inducted experienced technical leadership to approve solutions. This ensured minimum drag on customer engineers. We then enabled the IT infrastructure to gain secured access to the engineering data, design standards, and tools. The connectivity provides access at minimum latency and is a key component of our efficient delivery system.

As-is process mapping and subsequent Value Stream studies enabled us to eliminate waste and optimize. Due to repetitive nature of tasks, knowledge management practices were established to aid retention and promote re-use. Development of smart applications realized huge productivity gains and resulted in consistent quality output.

A state-of-the-art metric management system was our next addition. Electronic displays and other visual management aids track progress of tasks and report live status. Our customer exactly knows what we are working on and when we will deliver the solution.

What is the business case? $ Savings?

Our customer has
o shipped 10% more products at reduced quality cost
o realized 40% cost savings every year

How will a service provider gain knowledgeable about our products & processes?

We deliver the non-conformance process with a Local-Global team. 80% of engineering is executed 5000 miles away from the manufacturing facility in a low cost location. A capable team of engineers based near site ensure product integrity. Our customers cherish the high capability, optimum cost solution the Local-Global model delivers.

Our Local-Global model leverages full capability in the low cost location. A capability audit reveals our gaps and we develop a comprehensive road map to bridge it. A joint action plan with customer ensures we progressively build the capability for today & future. Product familiarity is developed through experienced structural engineers and customer facilitated trainings.

How good are their solutions? Will we get solutions on time? Can they think like our engineers?

We deliver 100% of the tasks on time and our quality returns are less than 4%. Technical autonomy has been granted to 25 of our most capable engineers and this enables us deliver a low drag solution. For our aircraft manufacturer following were the results we delivered:

o Time to closure has reduced by 60%. We are delivering the same work faster!
o Contributions to Customer process improvement

What will be the burden on our staff? We are already starved of good engineers!

A well designed training program produces ready fit engineers in 16 weeks. An intensive development plan has realised 25 approved signatories today. This capability is critical to provide a fully managed service – pick the non-conformance, review adequacy of information, engineering assessment – design & specialist, design solution and solution approval. We have today developed advanced capabilities in niche areas like composite design and assessment of Fatigue & Damage Tolerance (F&DT).

What does your customer think of you?

After we successfully transitioned our customer’s process, their Head of Engineering says “QuEST is doing a very essential work by managing concessions, a heavy responsibility. Not only are you delivering on time, but at the level of quality which we are expecting. I am really happy with the outcome and its momentum.” We were also recognised as the Most Innovative Supplier by our customer.


Today, we have the ability to manage large volumes of non-conformances, flexible to absorb changing priorities, and can quickly respond to fluctuating load. Our 24 x 7 support is unique and helps us manage the challenges of non-conformance work stream. Our customer engineers today focus on product development and product improvement ……they are smiling! When they smile everyone wins!

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on 19 Aug 2015