Core Tools Software Buyers Guide

Automotive suppliers, no matter size and tier level, must comply with a host of stringent quality requirements that ultimately result in the unprecedented level of quality, safety, and reliability of today's automobiles.

Quality standards are set by IATF 16949, AIAG Core Tools, manufacturer specific requirements, VDA, and other standards that define requirements, and establish submission process approvals for each component before they are assembled on vehicles.

Despite the complexity and the difficult task of complying with these requirements, three out of four US suppliers still manage their quality processes with spreadsheets and word processors, which is labor intensive, costly, and can lead to numerous errors and nonconformities.

If you believe your company can benefit from software specifically developed to generate and manage the automotive requirements, here is a guide based on some key elements that will help you on your decision process.

  • 1.Core Tools coverage
  • 2.Core Tools Management
  • 3.Document or Content Base
  • 4.Data Consistency
  • 5.Productivity Gains
  • 6.After Core Tools
  • 7.Core Tools Planning
  • 8.Implementation Strategy
  • 9.Web or Windows Application
  • 10.Multi-Language
  • 11.Investment and ROI
Core Tools Coverage

All main requirements from all Core Tools manuals should be covered. Here is the detailed list of these main requirements:

  • APQP Planning with Critical Path
  • Designs and Images Management and Viewing
  • Team Feasibility Commitment
  • Design FMEA (including all formats from FMEA Manual Appendix A)
  • DVP&R
  • Product Quality Planning Checklists (APQP Manual Appendix A)
  • Process Flow Charting
  • Characteristics Matrix
  • Process FMEA (including all formats from FMEA Manual Appendix A)
  • Control Plan (Prototype, Pre-launch and Production)
  • Work Instructions
  • Design of Experiments -DOE
  • Mistake Proofing/Error-Proofing
  • Quality Function Deployment – QFD
  • MSA – Bias, Stability, Linearity, R&R Variables (including ANOVA), R&R Attributes
  • SPC – Normal and Non-normal distribution.
  • Dimensional, Material and Performance Results (PPAP Manual)
  • Appearance Approval Report
  • Part Submission Warrant
  • Bill of Material (BOM) and Assembly Structure
  • VDA2 Requirements (German OEMs)
  • Customer Specific Requirements
  • Other support documents

The software should offer the option to append and manage external documents to cover requirements not covered by the software standard modules. For example, customer specific requirements, emails exchanged with the customer and others.

Template based systems are not recommended because they don't offer the consistency and productivity necessary to justify the investment, even if this investment is low. A good Core Tools system allows the users to focus on the content instead of format, which results in more robust and professional looking documents.

Core Tools Management

The core tools generate the main documents and requirements of an Automotive Supplier, so, it is vital that the software helps manage these documents and to offer reports that provide an instant picture of all developments for all customers. The Core Tools software should provide easy reports on APQP Status and Planned Activities Status. These reports should offer different search criteria for specific data analysis.

For corporations with multiple plants that share the same database, the Core Tools application must offer the option to report data from a specific plant of to summarize data from all plants.

Document or Content Base

Document-based systems improve workflow and document production but do nothing to ensure content consistency, so there is still a need for multifunctional teams to (manually) maintain and check for (content) consistency. Typical examples of this approach are an Excell spreadsheet based system or a Web Service based on templates. The requirements are developed based on defined templates. These templates can be provided by a third-party consultant, sold as a Web Service or can be internally developed. These systems rely on the users to keep information consistent and are very labor intensive. If one information, for example the part name is used in 20 documents, users must type that information 20 times.

Content-based systems have a database on the background. Data is registered in specific forms and the application formats the data according to the specified requirements. These systems address both work flow and consistency by sharing information among different documents. Change management is much more effective and simple. For example, if one specification was changed, the user updates the data in one form and the new specification is automatically updated wherever it is used. Intelligent data sharing address also restriction to changes in approved documents and automatically create traceability data. The productivity gains compared to document based system are significant. Also, these systems guide the users and offer several support functions that result in more robust and professional looking documents.

Data Consistency

All Core Tools requirements share part information. For example, the part name, part number, revision, customer, and other information appears on every document. Some information like Characteristics and Operations are also shared among certain requirements. For example, the Process FMEA, Control Plan and Work Instructions have characteristics and operations as their source of information. And there is also very specific consistency links. The links between PFMEA current controls and the Control Plan's control method is a good example.

Non-integrated systems and most document based systems do not address these consistency requirements. They rely exclusively on the users to maintain information consistent among different documents. And meeting document consistency is particularly complex and can be time consuming and inconsistencies can cause nonconformities to pile up quickly.

Content based integrated systems rely on database and consistency functions to guarantee consistency among all requirements regardless user input. Intelligent data sharing results in data consistency and productivity gains based on the data entry concept where the user never enters the same information more than once.

Besides Characteristics and Operations consistency, some document specific content also must be consistent. A good example is consistency between the Characteristics Matrix, PFMEA, Control Plan, Work Instructions and Inspection Records. These kind of inconsistencies is one of the most common nonconformity identified during QMS audits. The Core Tools software should address and maintain these documents consistent regardless of user interference.

Within the consistency requirement, document approval and user access level also have an important role. The software must not allow changes to approved documents. This means that changes to information that is being shared must consider individual documents status before allowing changes. User access level are also important to guarantee that only the right persons can approve each document.

Productivity Gains

Creating and maintaining all Core Tools requirements are very time consuming. There are many requirements and each one of them demand intense input from the multifunctional teams involved in these tasks. And, on top of that, document-based systems are hindered by typical document related tasks like finding files at a server, opening these files, saving files to server folders, printing or generating PDF files and several other tasks. And, if there is no content sharing, there is also the time required to find and update specific information in each document.

Content-based systems usually offer productivity gains that can go up to 90%, depending on the task being performed. For example, in ISOQualitas.PLM it takes less than 1 minute to create new revisions of all Core Tools documents and update all requirements after a specification change. Other Core Tools specific software may offer similar productivity gains. If you consider all the time saved, these software ROI are fast and guaranteed.

The ability to re-use information is also very important. When a new product, similar to an existing one is to be developed, the Core Tools software should allow copying existing data to the new product. This process should be very simple and traceability should be automatically recorded.

Finally, the application should address those time-consuming activities and offer better ways to accomplish the same results with less effort and time. For example, to add all Dimensional Characteristics to the Dimensional Test Report or to export all PPAP requirements to PDF files with one click.

After Core Tools

The quality, engineering and production activities don't end with PPAP submission. The most important phase in a product life cycle is the production phase. However, information developed during APQP development are at the core of production control. Thus, after development is completed, SPC, Work Instructions, Inspection Records, Layout Inspections and other activities continue to apply to production. Also, Nonconformity and Corrective and Preventive actions should provide feedback to new developments. The core tools system should integrate to MES (Manufacturing Execution System), Nonconformity Management and ERP, or to provide tools to manage production, to guarantee that production continues to follow the same definitions approved at PPAP submission.

Core Tools Planning

A typical APQP/PPAP development involves several members of a multifunctional team and several tasks. Some of these tasks are dependent on others and a there should be defined target dates to comply with the customer defined PPAP submission date. Usually companies have several simultaneous developments, so, managing these tasks can be very hard.

The core tools solution should provide core tools activities planning. Typically, a Gantt chart is also used to view the planned activities with their defined responsible, target date and completion status. Based on the planned activities, the core tools software should provide automatic notifications and email alerts to help users completing their tasks within the planned schedule.

Besides the Core Tools application planning, there are other activities that also have target dates and responsible like the FMEA Recommended actions, Layout inspection dates, Nonconformity and 8D actions. These should be managed the same way with notifications and email alerts.

Finally, the management should be able to list and query all planned activities to help identify potential issues and address those with a preventive approach to guarantee customer target dates are met.

Implementation Strategy

The adoption of any software related to any activity requires changes. Bigger changes to current procedures result in a longer and more difficult adoption and implementation. If the new software has a user-friendly user interface and guides the users, less training is necessary and user quickly adapt to the new procedures.

A good core tools software should be easy to learn and use by users that are already familiar to the core tools concepts. They should not have to learn completely new ways to do what they already do. Any software that requires more than a couple of hours for the users to be proficient, has problems.

Usually, document based systems are easy to implement because they don't change much the way the documents are created. However, this advantage is erased by the lack of productivity these software offer.

Content based system will require more changes, however, if they have a good user interface, they are easy to learn and the productivity gains quickly reward users for their new way to accomplish results.

Technical support, training, updates and other services provided by your core tools software provided should be considered. The software developer history is a great starting point. Customer reviews are another source that should be considered.

Web or Windows Application

From the IT perspective, Web systems are much easier to deploy because they don't require installation on workstations and usually are not dependent on the device operational system or hardware. Also, a web system can be accessed from anywhere giving multi-plant organizations the power to easy share information at a corporate level. However, for processing-intensive systems, highly responsive application that needs the full functionality on the client computed, Windows applications are a viable alternative. Also, it is important to consider the database access. Most web applications manage the database that is stored at the application provider servers. If you decide to change to a new system or to integrate with other applications that run locally at the company's servers, that can result in information being lost.

A core tools system often requires a responsive, sophisticated user interface that is ran on the desktop computer, but is linked to other components that perform back-end processing like database or report printing. This is a typical situation where Windows Applications can provide better results than web applications.

The mix of the main advantages of Web Applications with Windows Applications would be the perfect solution. If the solution you are considering is Web based, check how much the database is available from outside the application. If the solution is Windows Desktop based, check how the database can be shared among different plants (if this applies to your organization). One great solution is to have a Windows Application, but to have the database in the cloud. Today Microsoft offers a host of web services in their Azure platform. Combining a Windows Application with an Azure Database allows great performance and rich user interface and easy sharing among different locations. Besides, in this environment you own the database. At any moment, you can easy integrate the database with other applications and if you decide to change to another system, you will not lose information.

The most important conclusion on this matter is that the users should have the final word based on the functions and requirements they need.

Multi-Language

The automotive industry is one of the most global of all industrial sectors. One supplier can service OEMs that have plants on the same country and export to other countries. The Core Tools software should have multi-language user interface and multi-language reports. English is still the most important and common language but companies in Spanish, French, German, Italian and Portuguese speaking countries should be able to print the Core Tools documents in their own language, even if they are generating these documents in a software with English user interface.

Investment and ROI

Annalise carefully the productivity tools your core tools software offers. In some cases, the productivity gains alone will pay for the software. If you compare to Excell spreadsheet based systems, you can even profit by adopting a dedicated solution. As an example, ISOQualitas has developed a productivity calculator that compares some common tasks and the time gains the software offers. Converting these times based on the multifunctional team salaries it is possible to see that the investment is lower that the gains.

The most cost effective and advantageous licensing model is concurrent licenses in Software as Service (SaS) model. Concurrent licenses mean that the licenses acquired limit the total of users that can run the software simultaneously.

It is important to not forget the costs of training, updates, customization and technical support. Depending on how complex a system is, the training and customization can be higher than the software itself. Also, training should be provided at a regular basis since users can change due to employee turnover.

Core Tools Providers

Even if this Buyer's guide was developed by ISOQualitas, we believe these concepts are a valid starting point to your decision process. Here is a list of some Core Tools Software providers so you can compare their offerings.

ISOQualitas – www.isoqualitas.com

Datalyzer International - www.datalyzer.com

Omex Systems - www.omnexsystems.com

SCR QMS - www.scrqms.in

CEBOS - www.cebos.com

IQS – www.iqs.com

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