Industrial equipment manufacturer: Recovering from early life product failures

The client is a global provider of industrial equipment. They have a network of research and development and assembly units in numerous countries, and a truly global distribution network. The client has traditionally occupied the number one position in the market, with a reputation for the best performing and most innovative products..

The Challenge

The client has a strategic ambition to grow a larger range of its products. The design envelope of these products has been stretched and therefore they experience more quality issues than the smaller product ranges.

There has been increasing recognition of quality problems from their customers and distribution partners, and internally within the business. As a result warranty costs have grown significantly over recent years, and more importantly the worsening quality/reliability reputation in the market is threatening the growth ambition.

Oakland were asked to initially assess the way quality is managed across the business, and then implement a programme to transform quality performance, to enable the desired growth and reduce the total cost of quality.


We initially completed an insight phase to better understand and quantify the quality problems, and build broad-based support to an improvement programme. The insight phase included quality data collection and analysis, interviews with key internal and external stakeholders, site visits and deep dives into specific areas of the business.

The improvement phase started by establishing a ‘Firewall’ to prevent poor quality product leaving the factory and establish feedback loops to prevent errors. In parallel three rapid improvement events were run, focussing on three of the most significant quality issues. A value chain assessment was also completed, looking at the maturity of quality processes across the business. This formed the basis for the design of a new quality function.

The next phase of improvement built on the momentum of the first, evolving the Firewall into a permanent quality plan for Assembly. The quality plan concept was then extended to true Advanced Product Quality Planning (APQP) covering design, supply chain, assembly, and distribution partners.

To secure sustainability of the improvements, an overarching quality strategy and set of quality principles was established, along with an organisation wide approach to continuous improvement. To focus and drive further improvement, a Quality Dashboard was created covering the customer, process, cost and improvement dimensions of quality.


The insight phase rapidly identified problems under the four main categories of product, process, service and data quality, quantifying and prioritising the issues. The activity was particularly successful in building broad-based consensus on the main problems and commitment from the senior team and operational managers for improvement.

  • The initial Firewall, for the large product range, reduced the number of non-conformities per product from 14 to less than 3 in the first four months, preventing more than 500 quality escapes in this period.
  • The full set of quality plans is still being implemented, and when fully established these will ensure quality throughout the end-to-end value chain.