Is Dassault Systèmes’ Target Zero Defect a Realistic Goal?

Dassault Systèmes announced the launch of “Target Zero Defect,” an industry solution for the automotive industry the company argues will “enable zero defects across the entire product development process”, although it offers no details as of how this “industry solution” actually works.  While a noble ambition, it is an impractical goal.
It’s not that the auto industry is incapable of building much higher quality products. The problem stems from the fact that 70% or so of a car value is delivered by multitude of large and small suppliers, and the automotive supply chain is complex and fragmented. Couple these with the pressure to get new cars to market faster and at low cost, and you realize that “zero defects” is an unattainable goal.
Said differently, “zero defects” does not necessarily represent a sound business strategy. Improving product quality is critical to maintain brand leadership and contain warranty and repair costs, but, at the same time, overdoing it will lead to longer time to market and escalating engineering and manufacturing costs.
Lofty aspirations aside, Dassault does get it right when highlighting the critical need to provide digital continuity and collaborative environment from concept through final assembly and into aftermarket service. This digital thread is the foundation that automakers should use to improve two major weaknesses in today’s product development practice.

Design Reuse. The automotive industry is an overzealous innovator. While innovation for product differentiation, cost reduction or safety enhancement is important, there are dozens of parts and systems that can be carried over from one design to the next, resulting in considerable saving. (See a related blog entry.)

Process Agility. Instead of the absolute “zero defect” campaign, automakers should improve their ability to detect and react quickly to design problems. They need to apply more effective simulation and test strategies to control reliability problems, use analytics to detect issues sooner and more precisely, enable context for root cause analysis, and contain the volume of impact vehicle.

In many ways, Dassault is highlighting a critical industry need, one that can be improved by implementing an effective PLM strategy that spans multiple engineering disciplines and product lifecycle phases. The challenge Dassault will face that this approach requires automakers to make some fundamental changes in the way the manage product development, which they are unlikely to be too enthusiastic about.