Mazda Motor Corp. officials met recently in Dearborn to discuss the Japan-based automaker's implementation of Ford Motor Co.'s quality improvement initiative, Consumer-Driven 6-Sigma.

Mazda North America already is on board and involvement of its parent means all pillars of the Ford organization use the system β€” expected to save $300 million this year after $52 million in 2000.

The program seeks out and corrects root causes of variation, which Ford calls β€œthe enemy of quality.” In addition, a proposed 6-Sigma project must show process improvement of 70% and contribute to an average cost reduction of $250,000.

The project will be used in conjunction with other programs to help meet quality objectives.

Meanwhile, Ford confirms it will require suppliers to adopt stricter internal quality controls, but no implementation date is set. Louise Goeser, vice president-quality, says Ford is taking this position because suppliers have been implicated in some of the automaker's 2,600 6-Sigma projects β€” 900 of which are complete.

Ford also is implementing a pilot version of the program to prevent variation from entering the manufacturing process. If 6-Sigma methodology is integrated into the design process, shortcomings are more difficult to spot, but easier to correct.