Learning Center

Case study: The choreography of contingency planning

Automotive OEMs at the center of global supply chains need two things from their suppliers.

First, they need to know the supplier is capable of producing components of consistent quality at high speed in the normal course of business.

Second, they need to know that when (not if) abnormal circumstances arise, suppliers have a contingency plan in place to ensure production stays in motion and that quality and timelines are preserved.

When a 2-alarm fire damaged an automotive supplier’s Pennsylvania production facility, the search was on for a third-party heat treater capable of processing the customer’s entire workload of fasteners on very short notice.

Below, read about how Paulo made room in its Murfreesboro, TN plant to take on the entirety of the work—including completing documentation on over 100 PPAPs on extremely short notice.

Making room in Murfreesboro

The fire broke out in our customer’s facility in December 2018. Thankfully, no one was hurt.

But the blaze knocked out their in-house heat treatment capabilities. Shortly after the company announced it had enacted its contingency plan, we were informed that we were the contingency.

While we were not initially aware of our status as the customer’s backup, we do plan for this. Taking on temporary outsource and overflow work is a key portion of our business. We identified our Murfreesboro Division as the best destination for the parts that included fasteners, nut studs and pins among others.

Much organization and mobilization was required to prepare for the work. These efforts went two directions at once:

  • We had to run the initial test treatments and compile the mountain of documentation that our customer’s OEM required before they could sign off on the contingency plan. That meant completing 109 PPAPs on a right now deadline
  • To accommodate the influx of parts, we shifted all the plant’s existing work to two of our continuous belt furnaces. The third furnace was reserved entirely for the emergency work for as long as the customer needed. We also adjusted operators’ schedules and prepped the plant for overtime operation.
  • Additional staff were added to the operation to accommodate the customer’s service expectations.

Completing 109 PPAPs and staying in constant touch

OEMs strictly monitor the manufacturing and post-processing of critical automotive components. They keep such a close eye on every facet of production to verify that parts meet stringent specifications no matter who supplies them. The Production Parts Approval Process (PPAP) requires extensive process documentation that anyone who touches the parts must complete.

Completing a single PPAP is no simple task. Hammering out 109 of them in a matter of weeks should have been impossible. This effort took an enormous amount of quality support to verify process capability and perform all the testing required to assure we exceeded the customer’s expectations.

Early stages of projects like these are the most critical. To ensure we could deliver exactly what our customer required, we opened additional lines of communication with them. Constant contact was necessary to identify and treat priority parts they needed out the door quickly.

Separate teams within the Murfreesboro Division joined forces, becoming a cross-functional task force that choreographed this project’s many moving parts.

One of our team members even created an online status sheet he updated daily and shared with his counterparts to provide total, real-time visibility—just one of many examples of the team going above and beyond so that this crucial supply chain stayed in motion.

The right contingency makes manufacturing fail-proof

It’s true across industries, not just automotive: Even the smallest local disruptions can have an outsized impact on supply chains. And while OEMs don’t expect 100% perfection 100% of the time, they do expect that suppliers and vendors at every stage in the process have a plan in place to minimize the impact of events no one can predict.

Long hours, intensive planning and plant-wide flexibility all contributed to our success with our customer in its time of need. But we couldn’t have done it without their close support. The work got off to an uneven start because we didn’t know we were the contingency. But once everyone was organized and a plan was in place, the project went smoothly.

Today, our customer’s plant is back up and running. However, we’re still processing some of their components over nine months later. It’s a testament to the strength of the relationship that formed in response to an emergency. According to the customer: “The thing that stands out the most is the truly exceptional team you have there. They are all solution-oriented with a deep focus on customer satisfaction which was witnessed from day one and left a lasting impression. Everything we have asked you to address has been done promptly and without commotion.”

Are you making a heat treating contingency plan for the first time? Are you revisiting an existing plan to ensure there are no gaps? Paulo’s earned a reputation of understanding and working beside OEMs as they create and refine their processes. And we’ve developed long-lasting relationships with suppliers across North America as they keep complex global supply chains in motion.

Want in? Contact us and we can start planning together.

To outsource your treating or handle it in-house?