Independent of industries, customers have quality and capacity requirements, and these demands must be accomplished. During a Run at Rate audit (Run@Rate), the supplier proves and
demonstrates that its manufacturing process is capable to produce parts according to customer requirements at the quoted production rate. Usually all customers (not only OEMs) demand Run at Rate evaluation at
Run at Rate is performed by the supplier, based on the request of the customer’s
Supplier Quality Development (SQD)
department. In most of the cases Run at Rate is launched because of a new production initiation, a major process
change, or a production relocation (moving to other site or facility), which are all PPAP
Many automotive OEMs request special Run at Rate audits before releasing a supplier’s serial manufacturing (e.g. Volkswagen-specific 2DP – two days production audit, or the
General Motors-specific GP-9 Run at Rate procedure).
In the automotive industry, Run at Rate is in close conjunction with the Production Part Approval Process (PPAP). At many companies Run at Rate is preformed prior to the PPAP
first sample production, or together with it.
Companies usually request their Supplier Quality Engineer (SQE) and buyer / purchaser to be present during the supplier’s Run at Rate in order to monitor the whole manufacturing
process. The SQE also has to conciliate and confirm the circumstances during the Product and Process validation phase in the APQP
In case the Run at Rate audit fails due to quality or capacity reasons, a corrective action plan must be submitted to the customer within a pre-defined time-frame after the Run
at rate. The customer can either approve or reject the action plan, this procedure depends on customer requirements.
Features of a properly performed Run at Rate audit:
- Complete presence of the customer’s SQE / SQD during the Run at Rate.
- Details are agreed on between both parties in advance, and the supplier must know all customer requirements, based on the PPAP documentation.
- All processes must be conform to mass production, with proper sequence (including packaging of processes).
- The output rate of each process step to be measured (takt time).
- All machinery, equipment, tooling must be finalized.
- At the time of Run at Rate, all operators, and line staff must be trained.
- Control Plan, Work instructions, change-over procedures, etc. must be finalized.
- The used raw materials must be final.
- All products must be traced as Run at Rate parts (with final traceability system).
- Reworked parts are not considered as OK / GOOD parts.
- At least half- or full shift trial runs are needed to properly measure consistent output, and to record it in capacity calculation.
- Supplier should react on issues during the trials with counter-measures properly documented.
As a supplier, it is advised to perform pre-production trial runs before the official Run at Rate, in order to be sure about quality and capacity. These trials can be used for
machine and process capability
), and for the fine tuning of the line.
The line concept and process planning is necessary to define bottleneck processes, which can result inputs for decisions related to machine capacity increase (e.g. duplication
of machines with high technical takt time). Of course the clear customer demand (volume) is also necessary for this input.
As quantity also matters during a Run at Rate, the Overall Equipment Efficiency (OEE)
must be calculated for the
whole production, what gives clear data about availability, performance and quality.
As a customer, you need to be present during the Run at Rate, in order to give answers to customer related questions, and to provide prompt decision making in case of issues,
discrepancies. Supporting your supplier delivers benefit for both companies.
You should also clearly communicate your requests before the Run at Rate, and its date must be registered in the project time plan. Before starting the Run at Rate, ask for a
hard copy of the Control Plan, and the summary of previously measured takt times.
During the Run at Rate you can be at only one station at a time, so you cannot follow up continuously the further processed parts. To avoid any quantity manipulation by the
supplier, you should identify and trace the parts (if applicable with unique ID or serial number). Why would the supplier manipulate the Run at Rate if it turns out anyway, that they have capacity problems?
Because they have a quality issue, which they will surely solve later, but they also want to pass the actual Run at Rate audit.
Some hints against supplier manipulation:
- The supplier has high reject rates at various process steps, so they complement the missing quantity with previously produced semi-finished goods. As a customer you can trace and individually
identify the parts that "went through your hand" with special marking, what cannot be imitated by the supplier. In addition, you can record all serial numbers or unique IDs.
- There are parts, what take days to produce because of special materials (e.g. a glue, what needs 24 hours of dying), or complex manufacturing steps, and cannot be finished under one shift. As a customer,
you can close the box of the semi-finished parts with your unique warranty label, to avoid any part manipulation after the end of the shift.
- When measuring takt times, concentrate on bottleneck stations or machines, to identify output gaps.
Of course trust is the basis of all cooperation, and the previously mentioned tricks and cheats are not relevant in 90% of the automotive suppliers.