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ITEA Sneak-Peek: The Great Escape from Foam Defects

The 2014 ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement is coming up in early May in Dallas, and this year’s International Team Excellence Award Process (ITEA) will also come to a close at the conference, as winners from the finalist teams will be chosen for ASQ gold, silver, or bronze-level statuses.

What’s ITEA?

The annual ASQ ITEA process celebrates the accomplishments of quality improvement teams from a broad spectrum of industries from around the world. The ITEA is the only international team recognition process of its kind in the United States, and since 1985, more than 1,000 teams from the United States, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Germany, Guatemala, India, Japan, Mexico, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, and the United Arab Emirates have participated.

The preliminary round entry requires teams to submit a presentation outlining a project completed within the last two years that achieved measurable results. Then, judges chosen by ASQ evaluate the initial team submission and select a group of team finalists from the preliminary round to present their projects at ASQ’s WCQI.

The live team presentations are judged at the conference based upon how well each team’s presentation addresses predefined criteria established by ASQ.

This year, 40 teams from 14 different countries have been named as finalists. (You can see the list of finalists here.) We congratulate all of the Minitab customers who have been selected as finalists!

One of those finalist teams is from Ford Motor Company out of Dearborn, Mich., and I caught up with Scott Sterbenz, a Six Sigma Master Black Belt at Ford Motor Company, about his team’s ITEA presentation.

This is the third year Ford has participated in the ITEA process.

“Our own internal processes at Ford for completing quality improvement projects are aligned very closely with the ITEA criteria and methodology,” Sterbenz says. “So we’ve found that our project fits in well with the ITEA competition.”

The Great Escape from Foam Defects

The Ford team’s project for this year is called “The Great Escape from Foam Defects,” and addresses the implementation of castor oil derived foam for the instrument panel of the 2013 Ford Escape using DMAIC problem solving.

“During the development of the 2013 Escape, Ford had a strong drive to deliver a compact utility vehicle with minimal impact to the environment,” says Sterbenz. “While the development team made many updates to the Escape to make it more environmentally friendly, they wanted to go even further.”

A few months before the launch of the 2013 Escape, Ford made a late decision to use a more environmentally friendly foam—castor oil foam—for the instrument panel instead of a petroleum-based foam. The problem was that Ford’s supplier was experiencing high scrap rates of about 30 percent for the new foam, instead of a typical 1 percent scrap rate.

“We used Minitab Statistical Software to help us conduct and analyze a sensitivity Designed Experiment, which helped us validate our root cause and actions for improving the scrap rate,” Sterbenz says. “And we were able to reduce the scrap rate initially to 0.7 percent, and then with some incremental actions, to a stable 0.1 percent.”

The Main Effects Plot below helped the team validate a root cause for the high scrap rate—by looking at the difference in the sensitivity DOE results between the new castor-oil-based foam and the previously used petroleum-based foam. Green circles indicate quality levels where instrument panels are acceptable; red circles indicate quality levels where instrument panels would be scrapped.

The team hypothesized that castor oil foam was more sensitive than petroleum-based foam to the normal and expected variation in process energy input from the foaming process and foaming tool parameters. The v-shaped main effects plot above indicated significant energy input variation sensitivity for castor oil foam, while the main effects plot for petroleum-based foam showed insignificant sensitivity to that same energy input variation.

To learn more about Ford’s ITEA project and the solution they developed for reducing the high scrap rate, be sure to attend the team’s live presentation at this year’s ASQ WCQI, on Tuesday, May 6 at 10:45 a.m. Also, don’t forget that the ITEA live team presentations start during the morning sessions on Monday, May 5, and there are many interesting case studies to be heard from many different industries—including transactional and other service-based industries.

The Ford team is also participating in the ASQ WCQI poster display contest, and their poster this year sounds pretty cool. They’ve likened the steps they took to accomplish their “Great Escape from Foam Defects” ITEA project to the steps of another “great escape”—the steps inmates took to plan and execute their escape from the Alcatraz federal prison on June 11, 1962.  Be sure to check out all the posters on display in the exhibit hall!

Minitab is very proud to sponsor the 2013-2014 ITEA process! Visit the ITEA website to learn more about how to enroll your team in the 2014-2015 competition. 

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