Apode directly intervened when the supplier of the instrument panel module was causing an average of 10 quality incidents a month.
"We took the step of asking the supplier to perform a 100 percent inspection of the specific functions that were causing the problems," Apode said.
PSA makes suppliers pay for any quality incidents. The amount is calculated to cover costs for time lost and extra labor required because of the incident.
Apode said some other automakers have similar policies where suppliers pay for quality errors.
"VW makes suppliers pay more; Renault makes them pay less. Mercedes, however, does not require a payment at all," he said.
Because of the increasing speed of new model launches, it is difficult to solve quality problems before production begins, Apode said. For the 307, PSA was producing 1,800 units a day within five months of job one.
So the role of suppliers in 307 production has become more important. PSA purchases 70 percent of the vehicle's value from outside. With the 307, Sochaux started outsourcing seats to Faurecia, which is 70 percent owned by PSA. Faurecia is responsible for designing and building seat modules.
PSA will use more modules in the future to speed assembly, said Alain Besnard, director of production management and coordination.
Today a typical 307 hatchback requires 25 to 26 hours to assemble. Besnard expects to reduce that to 17 to 18 hours by 2005 or 2006 by using more modules.
One potential future module is the wheel assembly. PSA can consider using a smaller number of workers on the assembly line because it has a veteran, skilled work force with an average age of 44, Besnard said.
PSA is taking a long-term look at its production process. PSA plants do not currently use supplier parks. This could change soon.
PSA is developing a pilot program at the assembly plant in Rennes-la-Jannais, France, which builds the Citroen Xsara and C5. A management company operates a supplier park and rents space to suppliers. The supplier park is being built beside the PSA plant, connected by a conveyor rather than by rail or road.
"Suppliers will not be obliged to set up in the park. We want to retain our flexibility of purchasing," said Didier Edelblutte, manager for component flow at Sochaux.
He does not envisage a supplier park at Sochaux.
"Our plan for developing Sochaux in the 2006-2008 time frame is to integrate the stock as close as possible to the production lines [with parts sequenced and delivered directly to the production line]," Edelblutte said.
PSA currently aims to deliver a vehicle to a customer within 25 days of ordering, on a specific day. PSA said new software should let it achieve that target by the end of the year. Currently, PSA can deliver within 25 days for 85 percent of customers, but can only specify the week of delivery when orders are placed.
Material innovations feature strongly in the 307. A new aluminum hood saves 7kg over traditional steel.
"The material is more expensive and the hood is not cheaper to make, but the 7kg is significant," said Alain Hamm, Sochaux site director. "For reasons of weight, we'll be putting more and more aluminum on future vehicles."
The Sochaux facilities for stamping and assembling hoods also feed the Mulhouse plant. At 2,500 per day, Dubs believes it to be the highest-volume application of aluminum fabrication anywhere in the auto industry.
The plastic fenders on the 307 are not so much for saving weight as for ease of repair. In a frontal impact at up to 15kph, the 307's front end is designed so that the fender fasteners snap easily. The fender and headlamp assemblies remain undamaged and can be easily reattached.
Low repair costs mean favorable car insurance ratings, said Dubs. The 307 marks PSA's first use of plastic fenders.
Another first for PSA is the use of tailored blanks in 307 stampings. Already employed by most major carmakers, tailored blanks are created by laser welding different grades and thicknesses of steel together to obtain the right strength in the right places for difficult stampings, such as car doors.