That makes a whole lot of sense, Tom-R. That's big in the auto industry, even in the wine industry. At a conference, I met a guy from California who started growing pinot noir grapes for a winery. The winery spent a considerable amount of time on his property attending to every detail of his growing process before contracting for the grapes.
I agree Rob. Changing suppliers can be hazardous. That's why I always try to trial materials from new supplier, and see how the finished product behaves. If you can, trial the entire cycle of manufacturing, distribution, and use by the customer. Or simulate it as a minimum.
My material specifications include a requirement that any change in material or equipment at an existing supplier must be communicated to our technical contact, for this same reason. And since most suppliers know their materials limits better than anyone else, I require the same communications from our facilities using the materials. I prefer the supplier tell us they have had problems with a material on a new type of machine or at higher speeds, if they've already experienced it at other customers. And most good suppliers will send a rep to help with a trial if you're doing something they haven't seen their material do before.
It beats having a specification that reads like a list problems your company has seen with that material in the past.
A very interesting story, and it is interesting that having a small bit of distortion in the shape improved the assembly. The process design engineers should have observed the seal-motion problem and come up with a solution before production started. BUt good job in discovering the cause.
I recall an article (could have been DN) that contrasted "cultural" differences in tolerances, manufacturing, and inspection. As an example, door assemblies in a Japanese and German car were compared. Components on the Japanese car had surprisingly "sloppy" tolerances. Critical dimensions were controlled by assembly tooling and inspection. The German design had very tight component tolerances, but very little control or inspection during assembly.
The article didn't say one was better than the other, it was simply pointing out differences in design philosophies.
Always, but always troubleshoot a problem to find the root cause, and never tighten up tolerances as a panacea. I had an ME that would carry out tolerances to four or more places on everything and not think twice about the cost.
This is a good example of the havoc that can be created when a supplier changes processes, or when you bring in a new supplier that has different processes. How much control do manufacturers have over the processes and materials used to create their products? Outsourcing -- whether in Asia or here in North America -- brings up a whole new set of problems when it comes to the processes suppliers use.
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