WAYNE, MI – Ford Motor Co. exceeded by $25 million the savings it expected to derive in 2001 from its Six-Sigma quality improvement program, a top executive reveals.

Louise Goeser, Ford’s vice president-quality, says the auto maker’s “consumer-driven” Six-Sigma projects eliminated $325 million worth of waste last year – up from the $300 million in savings it had forecast.

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“And we continue to grow those savings,” Goeser says. “And what’s terrific about this is you’re taking out waste. You’re not taking out things of value to the customers.”

Ford’s Six-Sigma program examines customer complaints about specific vehicles and, using statistical analysis, identifies component or process variations. This leads to discovery of the problem’s root cause – known to Ford program insiders as “the devil.”

Anne Stevens, vice president-North America vehicle operations, relates how a hood-fit problem on Ford Focus prompted a comprehensive fact-finding that determined die changes were required to correct the glitch.

The hood-fit fix also raised a red flag regarding engine mount misalignment. This, too, was addressed.

Through Ford’s Quality Operating System (QOS), such data is shared for use throughout the company, Stevens says. As a result, similar issues on other vehicles might be resolved or prevented altogether.

Meanwhile, Goeser says she expects better results when J.D. Power and Associates releases its Initial Quality Study (IQS) in three months. That’s because preliminary findings of a confidential quality assessment completed in October show promise.

“We were doing better there,” Goeser says. “We expect and hope, with what we’ve been doing, we’ll do better again in May.” On the long-term product durability scale, she adds: “We have been doing better, year-over-year, for the last four years.”

Last year’s J.D. Power study showed Ford was lagging. In addition, when the auto maker unveiled its revitalization plan in January, management team members admitted quality improvement was “flat.”