By Kim Smiley
On October 11, 2012, Toyota announced a recall of 7.4 million vehicles worldwide due to a potential fire hazard. This newest recall comes on the heels of the heavily publicized unintended acceleration issue and puts Toyota once again in an unwanted spotlight.
A Cause Map, a visual format for performing a root cause analysis, can be built to help analyze this issue. The first step in building a Cause Map is to create an Outline that lays out how the issue impacts the overall goals of an organization. In this example, the safety goal is impacted because of the potential for injuries and car accidents. The production goal is impacted because of the effort needed to recall millions of vehicles. The customer service goal is also impacted because of the negative publicity that a recall of this size will generate. After the impact to the goals is determined, “why” questions are asked to determine what causes contributed to the issue and to create the Cause Map.
Starting with the production goal, we would ask “why” millions of vehicles were being recalled. This is happening because there is a component that may need to be repaired, the component is in many vehicles and there is a potential for injuries if the component isn’t repaired. A component needs to be repaired because the power-window switches pose a fire risk. Some of the power-window switches feel sticky when operated and if some commonly available lubricants are applied it will create a fire hazard because the switch can melt. There are millions of these power-window switches to repair because they were used across multiple models for several years because using standard parts is usually cheaper. There is a potential for injuries because a fire starting in the power-window switch while the car is driving would be pretty distracting.
This recall will generate negative publicity because it is a huge recall, the a largest vehicle recall since Ford Motor Co recalled 7.9 million vehicles in 1996, and the timing is a bit unfortunate since it comes shortly after the unintended acceleration issues that resulted in large recalls. In fact, some of the vehicles being recalled this round are the same vehicles that have had previous recalls, a fact that probably isn’t reassuring to owners.
The good news is that the fix for this problem is relatively simple beyond the innate hassle of taking a vehicle to the dealer. The recall consists of a technician inspecting, disassembling and applying approved fluorine grease to the power-window switch, improving the sticky operation and decreasing the likelihood that some handy soul might apply an unapproved lubricant and inadvertently melt the part.
To view a high level Cause Map of this issue, click on “Download PDF” above.