Meeting 2 – Customer Crisis – Repair Part Needed ASAP
A power plant had a bearing vibration problem with a circulating water pump. The plant reduced its electrical power output to its customers via the electrical grid to take the pump off-line. The pump was isolated and disassembled. It was found to have a bad journal bearing. An emergency purchase order (PO) for a replacement bearing was sent to a supply company that sells parts for all kinds of pumps. The PO included all the necessary specifications for the new bearing, such as size, shape, type, and material. Fortunately, the supply company had exactly one journal bearing in stock that met the specifications in the PO. The replacement bearing was shipped by plane on a priority basis to reach the power plant in one day. The urgency was due to the fact that the power company was losing over half a million dollars a day due to their reduced power output with the damaged pump off-line.
When the power plant received the replacement bearing the next day, it was inspected by their Receiving Department. The bearing was found to be out of specifications (OOS). The bearing was not perfectly round. They contacted the supply company and complained about their poor quality control. They demanded that another replacement bearing be sent immediately to minimize their loss of profit.
Once the supply company president heard about the quality control problem with this bearing, he called an emergency meeting of all his department heads. He designated a team to deal with this critical problem and described the problem to them. He demanded to know how this problem had occurred. Charlie said that a root cause analysis (RCA) would have to be done to find out what part of the quality control process had failed. After a few hours of investigation, the RCA determined that the root cause was that the bearing had been dropped during the packing–and–shipping process, and the crane operator didn’t tell anyone about it for fear of losing his job. The president then stated that that crane operator would be fired because his dishonesty had caused one of our customers to lose a lot of money and had tainted our reputation for providing high quality products. He said we cannot afford to make this kind of mistake if we are to remain in business, and that honesty and integrity are vital to our quality control process.
The president then asked what corrective actions were needed at this point. The Parts Department Head confirmed that there was no replacement bearing in stock that met the customers specs. The Mechanical Department Head stated that a replacement bearing could be produced in five hours by modifying a similar bearing that they had in stock. The president ordered him to start the ball rolling to get that new replacement bearing made ASAP.
Once the bearing modification had been completed, it was sent to the Quality Control (QC) Department. The QC Department confirmed that the replacement bearing met all specifications according to the purchase order. Once this was done, the bearing was packed and shipped under close supervision and with great care this time.
The power plant received the replacement bearing, installed it in the pump, tested the pump satisfactorily, and placed the pump back in service. The power plant then raised its output back up to 100% power. The president of the power plant was so relieved that he sent a letter of appreciation to the supply company thanking them for their quick response in replacing the bad replacement bearing on such short notice.
Back at the supply company, the supply company president asked his department heads how they could prevent recurrence of this problem. Corrective actions offered were better training for all personnel emphasizing the importance of honesty and openness when any abnormal event occurs that could compromise product quality. In addition, the verification process was modified to include roundness checks, which had inadvertently been omitted from the verification process. The president thanked the team for their hard work and dedication to the company in solving this problem.