Supplier Development – Case Study

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Auditing an Italian supplier against VDA 6.3 and IATF 16949

AUTOMOTIVE / VDA 6.3 & IATF 16949 AUDITS – Pro QC International’s expertise enhanced an automotive supplier’s quality management system, improved processes, reduced defect rates, and increased compliance with client requirements.

A leading electrical equipment manufacturer with factories in the USA, Europe, and Asia faced a problem: a customer deemed their production quality unacceptable.

Their customer, a German OEM, regularly audited the plant. The supplier had gone so far as to implement a 100% inspection regime, but it was not fixing the problem. The German OEM gave the supplier a deadline to rectify the issues, improve quality and provide evidence of compliance according to the German automotive standard VDA 6.3.

Facing this challenge, the supplier approached Pro QC for an objective assessment of their challenges. They needed to achieve breakthrough improvement in quality performance at their Italian plant. Read on for the full story.


Pro QC created a plan to objectively assess and measure the factory’s challenges on a system as well as a process level. These problems were then analyzed and prioritized, and an improvement plan was established with the factory team. The key steps and milestones of the plan are detailed below.

STEP 1: Factory Assessment

  • Perform a factory assessment against IATF 16949:2016 and establish a baseline level of systemic compliance
  • Verify and compare with the German OEM’s existing audit results

STEP 2: Manufacturing Process Audit

  • Assess each manufacturing process against VDA 6.3
  • Interview operators and understand their challenges
  • Inspect work instructions and other documentation
  • Calculate and present the Cost of Poor Quality (COPQ)

STEP 3: Corrective Action Plan

  • Project team formation
  • Design a solution to address each challenge
  • Establish the corrective action plan
  • Establish the associated training plan

The assessment for STEPS 1 & 2 lasted 13 days and Pro QC deployed two consultants on-site with IATF 16949, VDA 6.3, AS9100, and Six Sigma Black belt skills.


Below is a sample of the challenges found during the assessment phase:

Quality Challenges:

  • Pre-emptive risk analysis such as DFMEA and PFMEA were not regularly reviewed and therefore did not effectively prevent risks from occurring
  • Actual machine parameters conflicted with documented ones
  • The control plan was not strictly followed. Process drift was not addressed despite early signs it was trending that way and that prevention was possible.
  • Preventive maintenance was not effective
  • Work instructions were defined and available to staff but were not always followed.
  • Measurement systems analysis was not properly carried out. Equipment was not calibrated, hence the escape despite 100% inspection.
  • Output quality did not meet the German OEM’s requirements. Defective products escaped the plant and onto their assembly line.

Management Challenges:

  • The quality management system at the local plant was not aligned with the organization’s quality management system.
  • The high attrition rate in management and on the shop floor resulted in a highly unstable work environment and inconsistent directives
  • The German OEM previously performed audits, but the supplier did not take appropriate action to implement the requested changes.
  • Change management procedures were not properly introduced or followed through to ensure continuous improvement.


The outcome of the assessment and resulting actions are detailed below.

The IATF 16949 Quality Management Audit produced 64 findings:

  • 26 NCs (Non-Conformity)
  • 38 OFIs (Opportunity for Improvement)

The VDA 6.3 Process Audit produced 51 findings:

  • 6 Critical
  • 45 Major

Upon review with both the German OEM and the factory team, Pro QC’s project team prioritized the findings together with the factory team and then jointly established an implementation plan. A project champion team was formed at the factory with an accountable person for each action item.

The outcome of the project was:

  • A clear description of the gaps in the factory’s system
  • A project plan that established short-, medium-, and long-term gains
  • A clear implementation plan and an accountable team
  • Pro QC’s ongoing objective facilitation and validation of implemented actions

With a holistic improvement project, implementation plan, and the accountable team in place, the factory team was able to convince the German OEM to continue the partnership. 

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