OEMs find new approach to reducing warranty issues

Specialist consultancies are the key to helping OEMs and Tier Ones target savings of EUR100s per vehicle

Southam, UK, 1st July 2014 – Recent experience by transmission and driveline engineering company Drive System Design (DSD) suggests that OEMs are typically losing 3 to 5 percent of vehicle total costs to warranty issues, equivalent to EUR200-1000 per vehicle. As timescales for model introduction shrink and global platform sharing becomes more widespread, the impact of warranty cost is becoming more significant while the variety of experience gained by individual engineering departments is falling.

“Working with a wide variety of vehicle manufacturers and tier one suppliers on their driveline systems means that whatever issues arise, we have probably solved something similar before, so already understand the root causes,” explained DSD’s managing director, Mark Findlay. “The trend towards flexible global manufacturing, intended to reduce costs, may lead to failing to precisely replicate the validated production processes at every plant. In one example, the process of changing manufacturing facilities for a transfer case resulted in a spate of warranty returns. We designed a low level repair kit to allow dealerships to implement a cost-effective warranty repair.”

DSD is using a combination of manufacturing experience and fundamental system understanding to identify the causes of a wide variety of transmission and driveline issues arising during the pre- or initial post-production phases of new vehicles, then propose and validate solutions. In every case, the result has been a saving in overall production cost and/or an improvement in customer satisfaction ratings.

“As customer quality expectations increase and vehicle system interactions become more complex, it becomes harder for OEMs to ensure that every single issue has been eliminated,” said Findlay. “The issues that do emerge can also be the most challenging ones to solve, because they have already eluded exhaustive development cycles and sophisticated technical quality processes.”

In one example, the manufacturer was experiencing an abnormally high total failure rate of production vehicles (end of line test and warranty returns) due to unacceptable vibration of the gear selector lever. DSD assessed the performance of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ sample units by rig testing and exhaustive analysis of the production tolerances. The company established that a complex combination of run-out and backlash was leading, in some cases, to oscillation of a particular selector sleeve. By recommending tighter tolerances in the critical areas, DSD eliminated the issue and the client is now implementing the changes in production.

In another case, the electric steering column adjustment on a premium car was generating unacceptable noise during operation, causing customer complaints. DSD identified the key components responsible, established the root cause and recommended changes to shaft preload and bearing clearance that eliminated the concern. The OEM client was then able to specify the revised system from its supplier, who had been unable to eradicate the issue.

DSD believes that specialist consultancies are accustomed to providing concept design support and analysis, but that routinely addressing urgent issues on vehicles already in production is a new development. “Most OEMs expect us to provide rigorous technical input, but they are often surprised by our grasp of the practical manufacturing issues and the speed with which we can react,” said Findlay. “As the timing of new model programs is increasingly compressed, we expect growing demand for this type of service.”

About DSD

DSD is an innovative engineering consultancy specialising in the design , development and control of transmission systems and the integration of driveline systems into vehicles. Founded in 2007, DSD has inherited decades of experience from its key personnel, each of whom are leaders in their individual fields of engineering, and currently employs over 45 staff with particular expertise in driveline refinement, efficiency improvement and hybrid and electric vehicle transmissions. The company won the prestigious “Consultancy of the Year” accolade in the 2010 British Engineering Excellence Awards.


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