National carmaker Proton announced its quality improvement initiatives at the official opening of its just-upgraded 3S (sales, service and spares) centre in Kapar, Klang earlier today, encompassing aspects of its business value chain. This includes design, suppliers, manufacturing and the aftermarket, in order to ensure end-to-end and continuous product and quality improvements, according to the company.

The automaker is aspiring to attain the top spot in Customer Service Index (CSI) rankings in the country within three years. On the design aspect, an Engineering Quality Department has been established in order to provide Critical to Quality (CTQ) input to designers and engineers. Benchmarking, as well as the JD Power Initial Quality Study (IQS) are sourced as the primary inputs for improvement, it said.

Parts supplies will be subject to stringent control of Incoming Parts Quality and a new Quality Assurance System Audit (QASA). Meanwhile, manufacturing processes will have an indicator for defects per unit (DPU) in order to measure the plant’s consistency of quality, and a Process Audit will determine the effectiveness of processes which have been aligned with parent company Geely’s process audit standard. A task force will also look into daily market issues for efforts towards reducing top warranty claims, Proton added.

The Global Customer Product Audit (GCPA) is used as a benchmark for Proton to conduct its product quality audits, and it is a system also used for Geely and Volvo cars in tandem with global standards, says the national car company. The audit system is one that rates issues encountered on the production line based on their severity.

A system will give points of 300, 100, 50 and 30 depending on the severity of the issue; the higher the score the more serious it is, and any area with a score of 300 is deemed critical enough to stop production while corrective measures are implemented. Proton aims to achieve a score of 1,500 in the GCPA by the end of this year; as of June, the company has managed a score of 1,763.

Proton has also invested in a new, state-of-the-art production plant that is currently under construction in Tanjung Malim, which is progressing as scheduled and the forthcoming SUV will be the first to emerge from the new facility. Beyond that, it will also serve to assemble all future models co-developed by Geely and Proton, the company said.

The national automaker will also introduce a Visual Quality System (VQS) at the new facility, which according to Proton is the same as the one used by Geely in China. To ensure that the quality improvement initiatives remain on target, the quality improvement team meets weekly to discuss implementation issues and deadlines, and milestones are checked off as they are achieved in order to keep the final goal in focus.

Proton auditors are also sent to Geely in China for upskilling and to be familiarised with GCPA, product, aftersales and supplier quality, which are foreseen to pay off in the long term towards achieving and maintaining the scores targeted by the company, it said.

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Aftersales support also gains its own set of improvement initiatives. First up in this area is the upgrading of more outlets to 3S or 4S centres to serve as one-stop locations that will better serve its customers, particularly to have the convenience of sales and service at the same time, said Proton.

Customers returning for service needs is recognised as part of customer retention, and the company endeavours to better understand its customers’ needs and vehicle history. It also recognises the need to be consistent with deliveries to its customers, and ultimately to build long-term relationships with them by continuously meeting their expectations.

In the efforts towards changing customer perception of the brand, Proton identified eight drivers of internal processes at the front line of customer service and at the workshop stage.

Firstly, service appointments are to be scheduled proactively, apportioned to 80% for set appointments and the remaining 20% for walk-in customers. Next, service standard practices and customer service index improvement activities are put in place for the standardising of communication and handling of customers’ complaints.

Service advisors will need to adhere to a standard set in order to ensure customers get the required attention and service, while technicians will need to maximise productivity in order to meet all customers’ technical needs. All front-line and workshop positions should be sufficiently staffed and with the necessary quality, which is to be knowledgeable and skilled for the job at hand.

For vehicles about to be returned to customers, the 4M (Man, Machine, Method & Material) and 5S (Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu & Shitsuke) items have to be complied with in order to ensure the optimal condition of the vehicles. Parts are to be kept at a fill rate of 90% and above by referring to the average monthly demand quantity, and by monitoring back orders. Finally, Vehicle Off-Road (VOR) cases are to be monitored daily, and cases requiring head office assistance will be raised by the Market Investigation Report (MIR).

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