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Freudenberg-NOK site gets coveted Q1 status

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Ford Q1 supplier award for Freudenberg-NOK's Necedah, Wis., plant
Celebrating the approval of the Ford Q1 supplier award for Freudenberg-NOK's Necedah, Wis., plant are, from left, Freudenberg-NOK's John Batchik, Brad Henderson, James Gearhart and Daniel Hillebrand, joined by Ford Motor Co.'s Rey Mendoza and John Huey.

NECEDAH, Wis.—Freudenberg-NOK Sealing Technologies GmbH & Co.'s Necedah gasket facility has received a Q1 supplier quality award from Ford Motor Co.

The award highlights supplier achievement in a number of areas, mainly quality, delivery, service and continuous improvement programs, Freudenberg said.

Necedah produces transmission and engine components for a variety of Ford vehicles, including the F-250 and F-350 Super Duty trucks and the E Series vans. “We've got a lot of Ford business, and it's great to be recognized by Ford for this kind of achievement,” said John Batchik, Freudenberg-NOK vice president of quality.

With the certification, Necedah becomes the 10th Freudenberg plant to receive the award, the firm said. Ford said there are about 3,500 Q1 supplier sites worldwide—or 70 percent of its base.

“Our suppliers tell us it's a huge pride point for them,” said Ford's Purchasing Chief Hau Thai-Tang. “They typically fly the Q1 flag proudly in front of their plants. It demonstrates a level of excellence.”

Freudenberg said the designation gives it certain advantages when dealing with the automobile manufacturer. Daniel Hillebrand, Necedah's lead center manager, stamped gaskets, said Q1 is necessary for plants looking to quote new parts for Ford because it establishes a level of trust.

“It's a real time-saver,” Batchik said. “It allows us to submit information with a lower level of documentation and to receive favorable consideration for future business.”

Long road back

Necedah achieved Q1 certification in the mid-'90s, but business conditions and the focus of the plant changed. The process to regain Q1 took multiple years.

To become certified, plants must maintain a rolling score on an evaluation consisting of about 37 major points measuring key categories such as quality, delivery and warranty, Hillebrand said. Facilities must go a year with zero defects during the final evaluation process.

The firm said the facility had to develop and implement Ford's best quality planning, quality control and quality improvement practices as outlined in its 81-element Ford manufacturing site assessment document. Necedah had to train employees, revise procedures and engage its suppliers to meet the standards.

Necedah then had to maintain ongoing quality and delivery performance to Ford's transmission production plants. Freudenberg said the factory exceeded Q1 score requirements for more than a year prior to receiving the award.

Once Q1 is achieved, the plant cannot fall below an 80-percent rolling score.

“We have to make sure the gaskets are supplied in a quality manner the way they want it when they want it, and if they want to change when they want it, we have to be able to adapt to that also,” Hillebrand said. “We go above and beyond to make sure that we're willing to do whatever Ford needs to make sure they get the parts they want when they want them.”

Once the criteria were met, Necedah formally applied for the Q1 award. Freudenberg said it was required to receive letters of endorsement from each Ford production plant supplied, Ford's service division and materials performance and logistics group.

Necedah finally had to prepare a Q1 evidence report that Ford management reviewed. This involved showcasing records of the plant's performance in quality, delivery and warranty, its manufacturing site assessment evidence, external quality and environmental system audit results, and examples of its corrective and preventative action problem solving efforts from past quality issues.

Ford then reviewed the application and deemed Necedah worthy of the award. “It's very explicit recognition from Ford that the supplier has a quality operating system that's robust,” Thai-Tang said. “We try to ensure that the process is not personality dependent, regardless of who is there and what shift, it delivers a predictable outcome.”

Freudenberg-NOK is the Americas joint venture between Freudenberg and Co. in Germany and NOK Corp. in Japan. It produces sealing technologies for a variety of markets, including aerospace, agriculture, appliance, automotive, construction, diesel engine, energy, food and beverage, heavy industry, and pharmaceutical.

The firm is headquartered in Plymouth, Mich., and operates more than 20 facilities across the Americas.