Finding the Trouble in “Trouble Not Found”
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In today’s advanced manufacturing environment, 100% first time quality – zero defect parts – is an achievable goal. With that fact in mind, it’s easy to understand our disappointment with any product warranty returns.
Now, imagine our frustration when the returned part checks out to be fully functional and we are forced to write the dreaded, “Trouble Not Found” reports.
At Remy, we decided “Trouble Not Found” was unacceptable. It was a point of pride, of curiosity, and a desire to solve a problem, for us and for our customers.
Remy will always accept responsibility when the problem is ours. We’ll own it and fix it. But we also believe that if our customer has a warranty removal problem with one of our products, even if it is not our part causing the failure, it’s our challenge to resolve it.
This case study is one instance that describes the process and the discoveries along the way.
Analysis Points the Way
First, we put our own house in order and addressed any failure modes that could be associated with Remy parts. The more we looked, the more we found failures that could not be attributed to our starter motors and alternators.
We refused to look for excuses, only answers. We reasoned that if we had zero failure modes on our parts, failures were either system related, caused by another component, a result of abuse, or an actual case of trouble not found.
Our response was to create an ongoing collaborative process with our customers. We offered our application engineering knowledge, electrical systems expertise, and diagnostic abilities to them with the shared goal of reducing the number of system failures, warranty returns, and incidence of Trouble Not Found.
Assessing the Problems
We began by analyzing all possible data points: warranty claims from all regions, vehicles, quantities, applications, systems, failure rates, and any information that could help us narrow our searches.
We went beyond the data and analyzed failure modes on the vehicles. When we encountered vehicles that were prone to problems, we sent in application engineers to diagnose the entire electrical system.
If there was a problem with the starting or charging system, we went through multiple diagnostics. We analyzed batteries, wiring harnesses and ECM’s and considered every component of the electrical system. If we still couldn’t find the trouble, we did a deeper dive at our Product Launch Center, performing the rigorous combined environmental and durability tests we employ for our original equipment product launches.
The results were enlightening and led us to several revealing electrical system failure mode discoveries. Examples include a clutch switch on one system that created problems for a starter; a lack of time delay on another; another that overheated due to overcrank.
We analyzed geographic trends and found no common ground. Each customer had different areas with higher incidence of TNF. Some had more in over-the-counter sales locations. There were no geographic or business function trends that were consistent across every customer.
We did find that the regions with the most warranty returns had the largest incidence of “Trouble Not Found.” This was not just a simple equation of more returns equals more TNF. The percentages were noticeably higher. We also found strikingly similar failure modes.
Customer Collaboration Leads to Answers
At this point we were peeling back the layers of the mystery. Armed with information and proof, we continued to analyze the problems and the nature of their origins.
Working with our customers, we looked deeper into the regions with the most warranty claims – and incidence of TNF – and their specific occurrences.
Repeated failure modes led us down the same path to the same conclusion: most of the cases in trouble not found incidents had two elements - a systemic failure and a misdiagnosis.
Knowledge Powers the Solution
The technicians were not the problem. They just needed additional training and better diagnostic tools, with concentrations in the common failure modes, in the regions with the most recurrences of Trouble Not Found.
It became clear to us and to our customers that we could both save significant expense with application engineering collaborations, training, and better tools at the point of diagnosis.
The goal was proper identification of electrical problems, as opposed to simply assuming it was a starter motor or alternator.
In partnership with our customers, we developed customized, comprehensive training programs based on our analytics and the diagnostic problems we reviewed. We sent our engineers to our customers’ facilities to help them establish new processes; we collaborated on re-engineering electrical systems. All deployed first to the areas that needed them most.
“It began as a formidable challenge but ended with a collaborative solution. The reason behind these efforts was central to our total value proposition: to be true partners with our customers, we must share the responsibility for the performance of the entire electrical system, even if our part is not the root cause of the problem.”
The Road Ahead
Our Trouble Not Found process and subsequent training and engineering solutions are now successful collaborative programs with some of our highest-profile customers and their dealers. All have been remarkably successful.
We are offering – and expanding - our Service School, Online Technical Training, Assisted Field Support Training, and Tech Tip Videos as part of our services to all customers. We’ve learned that time dedicated to systems collaboration and diagnostics training pays significant dividends.
Most important, our customers can serve their customers better and the technicians can have the gratification of professional improvement. The process reduces overall warranty claims and improves reliability and durability of the vehicles.
And Remy engineers can close one important chapter in the book on “Trouble Not Found”, and find the solution to another customer challenge.