Electronics Assembly Knowledge, Vision & Wisdom
Why Ford Asked for Lower Quality
Why Ford Asked for Lower Quality
Ford Motor Company was addressing a consistency issue. Inventory parts had a slight gold cast, but the new ones were a perfect "chrome white".
Mysteries of Science
Dr. Gilleo
Mysteries of Science by Dr. Ken Gilleo
Dr. Gilleo is a chemist, inventor and general problem solver. Ken has been tracking industrial forensics and collecting case histories for decades. These cases are taken from the vast world of industry and commercial enterprise.

Check out Dr. Gilleo's eBook, 100 Mysteries Solved by Science. We hope you enjoy these case histories. You need not be an engineer or scientist to understand the problems and appreciate the solutions.
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A Ford Motor Company buyer was in a quality meeting to address a consistency problem. The part at issue was the instrument bezel for one of the Mercury models. The plastic part was vacuum metallized with bright aluminum metal and then finished with a dull transparent coat to keep reflections and glare down to a safe level.

The inventory parts had a slight gold cast but the new ones were perfect "chrome white". A Ford quality engineer explained that the new parts were of better quality, but they didn't match earlier batches or parts from other suppliers. He thought that the difference was occurring at the vacuum metallization stage.

Pure aluminum is a white metal and there should no gold tinge, but organic impurities can create discoloration.

The vacuum that is necessary to keep the aluminum from oxidizing tends to pull volatiles out of the plastic. These impurities alter the color of the aluminum. This coloration phenomenon is called a "burnt shot" and the engineer speculated that the supplier was working too hard at reducing impurities and improving quality. Maybe Ford was beating the quality drum too hard!

Armed with this information, the buyer called the president of the small company and asked if he could get back to the lower quality of last year. He listened to the explanation and agreed to drop the color quality level.

Here's the rest of the story.

The president asked the VP and R&D to go back to whatever process was used before the color improved and call a meeting. The meeting began with an opening statement by the president, "It seems that we are too good for the competitors and Ford is begging us to drop down to their low quality until they can catch up which is going to be never." The VP of R&D asked his chief chemist to explain.

He began by telling about the stupid processes that Ford had approved, "I was walking by the paint spray booth and saw them taking beautiful bright and shiny metalized parts and spraying them with dull coat until they looked like cheap aluminum paint. So I yelled at the supervisor that he should put aluminum paint in the sprayer and stop the expensive metallization process. Well, to make a long story short, my big mouth got me in trouble and the next thing I know, I got a new project to make a paint that matches the old process", he reported.

The process was a success, but it was a big challenge. No aluminum paint was as bright as the metallization with a dull coat, so they had to get special pigment and make their own paint. The reflectivity was wrong, but they finally found some micro-particles of prism-shaped glass that did the trick. After 3 months, the paint was perfected and the old 4-step process was replaced by the 1-step paint spray innovation.

This process helped boost profit by 25%, so they didn't want to go back to the old process.

R&D was finally able to match the old burnt shot color, but it took some ingenuity. The addition of some brass flake worked and the new paint was introduced into the process.

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