It started in a small room equipped with a test machine to examine the quality of air mass sensors, three years ago. Today, with a strong technical team at FPS, that small room has since grown into a 52m² purpose-built, quality control test lab.
The Lab Facility
Located in the Grange Mill Road Warehouse at Sheffield, The Lab is at the epicentre of all arrivals at FPS. The facility scrutinises the incoming products before FPS releases them to the market. The Lab is also where FPS detects the core of a problem if products do not meet necessary warranty, legislative and quality standards required from all suppliers.
Ben Hilton, Marketing Director of FPS comments on the significance of The Lab:
“FPS invests significantly into quality management as it is a prime focus of the business. It is critical for us to ensure that our customers and end users are protected against poor quality products entering the market. Also, outside of ‘The Lab’, FPS has also invested in 6 full-time heads covering quality management and technical pre- and post-purchase support, to demonstrate to our customers and suppliers that we have a level of technical expertise. From factory quality audits through to pre-sale testing in the UK and warranty testing, FPS is fully committed to leading industry best practices in this area.”
The Lab resolves warranty issues by performing stringent tests in a clean, organised and temperature controlled (20°C) environment to ensure consistent testing at all times. This standard has allowed The Lab to provide suppliers with clear-cut diagnostic evidence of any product defects and improve the efficient resolution of warranty claims.
Safety in The Quality Control Process
When examining the quality of certain engine components where high voltage is involved, safety is paramount. Close attention is paid to every constructive detail of the lab to facilitate safety in the quality control processes.
From bespoke work benches to accommodate testing equipment for parts such as air mass sensors and fuel pumps, to a safety interlocked, polycarbonate enclosure for ignition coil testing; every avenue of safety is considered to promote occupational safety while ensuring products are safe for the market.
All incoming products are tested against OE master samples from car manufacturers that are carefully curated at the facility. The team also inspect all products against technical drawings from suppliers to make sure that the products sold by FPS are within standards set by the industry.
Certificate Authenticity & Document Validation
The build quality of many engine components are often safety critical. That is why FPS takes certificate authenticity very seriously. FPS has strong relationships with third party affiliates like Bureau Veritas, TUV and SGS to ensure that standards are being met.
A significant part of the quality control process involves verifying quality claims from a supplier. FPS’s quality control facility documents all supplier information such as certifications of quality, health and safety, as well as adherence to ethical and environmental standards.
To accommodate the scope of demands in the UK aftermarket, FPS often has to extend their procurement reach to the far corners of the world. To make sure that the products and suppliers adhere to FPS standards, the technical team exercise due diligence through a formalised process to make sure that all claims of quality and certifications are authentic. This is either conducted by document validation or being present to audit the supplier.
The Future of Quality
The Lab continues to improve on standardising various processes and include more purpose-built test equipment in the pipeline. From resolving warranty issues to getting to the bottom of product recall episodes ahead of schedule, The Lab and its technical team has provided FPS customers a level of assurance and value that they are rightfully accustomed to.
FPS has a formal recall process to improve the traceability of a product in the event of a product recall. This aims to improve FPS’s answerability to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) or Trading Standards, should they need to be involved.
In April 2015, there was a wide-scale, ‘on-vehicle’ recall of a front suspension arm. This meant that every part sold by FPS had to be located and returned to the supplier. From FPS’s collation of sales data of the product, the team was able to provide the affected motor factors with proper documentation to get in touch with the garages and vehicle owners in order to rectify the recall issue.
With clear-cut procedure guidelines and a concerted effort across the business, FPS was able to detect the location of all sold parts and resolve the issue within 8 months. This was 10 months ahead of the schedule set by the DVSA.
The standard operating procedure for managing recalls at FPS has further fine-tuned to ensure that the team is ready to take any future recalls effectively and efficiently.