Customer Story

Global Tire Manufacturer Innovates with EASE to Eliminate Systemic Quality Problems

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A large tire manufacturer with manufacturing plants and technology centers across multiple continents implemented EASE to get better results with layered process audits.

The company ultimately developed an innovative strategy using EASE to uncover systemic quality risks, resulting in identification and prevention of potential quality escapes.


The client is an automotive supplier with over $2B in annual revenue, over 4,000 employees and dozens of manufacturing sites worldwide.

The company initially started conducting layered process audits (LPAs) using a paper-based and spreadsheet-based method. LPAs are required by original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) such as General Motors and Fiat Chrysler, and have also been adopted by other industries such as aerospace, medical devices, chemicals, consumer packaged goods and others.

Manual Processes Create More Work with Less Results

Before moving to digital LPAs, the manufacturer struggled with the inefficiencies of a paper-based and spreadsheet-based system, including difficulties with:

  • Manually entering audit findings from paper checklists into spreadsheet format
  • Updating forms and distributing checklists
  • Compiling, analyzing and reporting on data effectively
  • Completing mitigations in a timely manner
  • A large amount of labor involved in scheduling and executing audits

The company spent six months using an LPA system in one department without seeing the desired results. According to one senior manager, “It just made everything difficult. To roll it out to 40 separate processes just wasn’t going to work.”

Seeking a Catalyst for LPA Success

Recognizing that the paper-based system was very labor-intensive—combined with the fact that they needed to conduct LPAs across all sites—led the company to seek a new solution.

The tire manufacturer decided to try EASE to reduce the administrative burden of paper-based audits and the difficulty involved in achieving meaningful quality improvements.

“We needed a better way to implement LPAs,” says another quality leader at the company. “EASE wasn’t as resource-intensive as using spreadsheets.”

“The goal is to uncover repeat findings and address them with corrective actions. That’s where the win actually is. Metrics move on that— not one-off findings.”

Ultimately, the manufacturer decided to implement EASE because of the simplicity of scheduling and data collection.

“It uses all the rules you set up to automatically schedule audits, and you can pull up data from audits that were completed even just a couple of minutes ago,” says one of the company’s industrial engineers.

“That’s made it a lot easier to expand our audit coverage across the rest of our plants beyond the initial pilot areas where we had started with paper and pencil,” he adds.

A Clear Win

Rolling out EASE at its plants delivered significant results for the tire manufacturer, giving the team the ability to:

  • Complete over 200 audits a week for improved data collection
  • Close out mitigations faster to reduce the impact of process failures
  • Generate Kaizen problem-solving events from repeat findings to poka-yoke or error-proof them out of the process
  • Improve management buy-in for LPAs—a critical aspect of LPA success
  • Get real-time visibility into LPA data to uncover hidden problems

Furthermore, the manufacturer can use EASE Insights for advanced reporting, allowing them to pull raw data from a data warehouse to query it and report on it in a multitude of ways.

“My favorite part of EASE is it’s an intuitive system. I was able to log on and start using it right away,”

Using EASE to Find Systemic Risks

The automotive manufacturer has also used the EASE platform to come up with an innovative strategy for quickly identifying systemic problems hidden across a plant or multiple plants.

This strategy is based on using what the company calls focus questions to do a fast look across all machines when a failure occurs. The goal is to identify which problems are isolated issues versus those that may also be happening elsewhere—and must be fixed quickly before they impact customers.

Dynamic question banks are set up so that each question has one of the following tags or categories:

  • Equipment
  • Process
  • Material
  • Quality
  • Project sustainment

What makes the question library dynamic is that the team also uses a sixth category called focus questions specifically when a nonconformance occurs. If a randomized question from one of the five tags above has a finding during an audit, the tag is temporarily changed to a focus question.

Focus questions are then turned on for all audits on the same equipment type for four weeks. This strategy allows the manufacturer to immediately assess whether a nonconformance is a one-off incident or a systemic problem.

“If we change the tag Tuesday evening on third shift, then first shift Wednesday morning we’re looking at whether this same issue is occurring across all 30 machines,” says a senior manager. “It allows us to move fast, and that’s really what’s important.”

According to the industrial engineer, this approach has been instrumental in avoiding quality escapes.

“We’re uncovering a lot of quality issues that probably would not have been discovered before,” he says.

Seeing Repeat Findings As Critical Opportunities

Identifying repeat findings is a central goal of the team’s strategy around LPAs. Repeat findings trigger a Kaizen event or process change, helping the company prioritize its biggest quality risks.

This proactive strategy has helped the manufacturer drive real change with EASE, using the discovery of repeat findings as a leverage point for bigger quality results.

“If we just conduct audits, do some mitigations and keep floating around, we’re not going to get anything out of it,” says the senior manager.

“The goal is to uncover repeat findings and address them with corrective actions. That’s where the win actually is. Metrics move on that— not one-off findings.”

It’s important to note that this type of strategy only works when the bank of focus questions is small compared with other question tags. For instance, the question library in EASE might have 15 questions tagged as quality, with one question from that category asked per audit.

Conversely, having just one or two focus questions allows the team to ask these questions on every single audit for every piece of equipment. With too many focus questions, this would be impossible. The result is that the manufacturer can keep audits short to complete a large number of checks, while still ensuring broad coverage of standards.

How Dynamic Question Banks Drive Continuous Improvement

The dynamic question banks have also been useful in several other areas that contribute to continuous improvement in the organization.

Root Cause Analysis

Being able to quickly pivot questions when quality issues arise can help with investigating the root cause of problems.

For example, if a uniformity condition has one of six causes, the team will turn on specific focus questions related to those causes to uncover potential sources of uniformity issues.

Improving Documentation

Sometimes audits reveal instances of undocumented knowledge of processes. In this sense, LPAs help eliminate hidden factory issues by showing leaders what’s actually happening on the plant floor.

In other cases, LPAs help show the company where standards are unstable and causing systemic issues, such as if work instructions need to be updated.

Raising Awareness on the Plant Floor

The company’s strategy also involves launching new questions as focus questions. This approach helps quickly communicate with the team about emerging quality issues they need to be aware of.

Overall, the customer says the results they’ve seen would not have been possible without automation, and that implementing EASE has led to meaningful change in the organization.

“The paper model doesn’t scale to a 1,000-employee factory,” the senior manager says. “I’m passionate about how we use EASE and what we’re getting out of it.”

“When you need to manage thousands of these audits—and feel confident that you can effectively harness the data—you can’t reasonably expect to do that in a paper system,” says the director of quality. “When you schedule, conduct and report on them electronically, all of those constraints disappear.

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