How do you continue to fuel business growth while maintaining high quality processes and customer satisfaction and compliance? That was the challenge that global heating, cooling, and water heating manufacturer Rheem was facing.
During a recent webinar, Quality Systems Supervisor Cliff Davis shared details on Rheem’s quality journey. In the webinar (register to watch the on-demand recording here), he talked about why Rheem chose to partner with ETQ Reliance on its quality journey and how (and why) Reliance has grown within Rheem. He also shared information about Rheem’s business disruptions and outlined how ETQ Reliance helped resolve those issues. Read on for more details.
Rheem’s Implementation of ETQ Reliance
Founded in the 1920s, Rheem is the water heating and HVAC industry leader, with more than 25 locations across the globe. And in 2005, when one of Rheem’s customers began requiring ISO compliance, the company realized it needed a quality solution — and chose ETQ Reliance.
“We wanted ETQ Reliance because we needed to become ISO compliant,” Davis explained. “We needed to put our document control features and quality management processes into a system.”
Initially, Rheem didn’t have plans to implement ETQ Reliance globally. But when Davis took over in 2008, he quickly saw Reliance’s potential. “I helped expand the use of Reliance to more departments and more locations,” he said. “And eventually, we expanded it to all of our North and South America locations.”
One of the unique ways that Rheem uses Reliance is as a supplier portal where suppliers can respond to quality-related documents, PPAPs, and Corrective Actions. “All of our suppliers have a username and password to log into Reliance and respond to quality-related documents. Our supplier portal is powerful — it allowed us to shift from an out-of-control situation with email and spreadsheets into a well-oiled machine,” Davis said.
Davis credits Reliance’s flexibility and speed with its cross-company adoption. “The beauty of ETQ Reliance is how flexible and fast you can implement solutions,” said Davis. “With Reliance, you have a structure already built around what you can build — it’s a really, really good tool.”
Davis continued, “And as we’ve grown with our capabilities and technical knowledge of Reliance, we started pushing it outside the quality world. We saw it more as a rapid stopgap solution than just a quality tool. Because it’s so flexible, we were able to roll it out to departments like R&D — we built them a lab management system, where they use Reliance to submit data and requirements for building prototypes or developing new products. Our R&D team has grown, and Reliance was an easy tool — and the best part was that it didn’t cost anybody any more than it costs today.”
Rheem has been honored with three innovation awards recognizing its work with Reliance: an award for its supplier portal, another for its “Meatball” help tool, and the third for its RDLC wireframing tool — a rapid wireframing tool that empowers Rheem users to develop and build their own Reliance processes without the need for design.
Like many companies, unexpected external disruptions had the potential to affect Rheem’s business significantly. But according to Davis, Reliance helped minimize disruptions. “Because Reliance is so flexible and easy to implement, we were able to respond to things that happened out-of-the-blue.”
Davis credits Reliance with helping Rheem quickly respond to three unforeseen situations:
- Trump administration border shutdown: “When the Trump administration was talking about shutting down the U.S./Mexico border, within a couple of days, we built and sent our suppliers a survey that assessed our level of risk if a border closure was to happen. The shutdown didn’t end up occurring, but we were prepared,” Davis said.
- COVID-19 pandemic: “When COVID-19 hit, that was a surprise to everybody — and nobody knew how bad it would be. To prevent the company from shutting down but still maintaining the level of quality we promised our customers, we had to develop a solution for rapidly approving new suppliers and new parts. Using Reliance, we were able to build what we call an Emergency PPAP — a fast-track way of approving those parts. It didn’t cost us anything extra to do it, and we were able to react quicker than most,” said Davis.
- EPA decree: Davis continued, “Most recently, the EPA decided certain chemicals would no longer be allowed to be produced — so if you make products or have products that contain these chemicals, you need to shut it down. They’ve since extended the deadline, but initially, it was a very aggressive deadline. We were able to quickly and efficiently deliver a risk survey to our suppliers, allowing us to assess and mitigate our risk.”
Maximize Your Quality Investment Value
In a business poised for continued growth, it’s challenging to keep quality high, maintain customer satisfaction, and achieve compliance. But as Rheem shows, if you choose the right partner for your quality journey, it’s possible to do that and much more. As your business embarks on its own quality journey, don’t be afraid to think outside the box regarding your quality management system. Not only will you be able to better weather business disruptions, but you’ll maximize the value of your quality investment.