Brad Lewis :
I writing to you in regards to vehicle assembly lines utilizing electronic error proofing and the number of recalls that are still announced. Please bear with the 3 letters below which help explain. And the article referenced will explain a lot also. Vehicle manufacturers are MISSING a critical element while assembling their products.
Brad Lewis :
My name is Brad Lewis. I am contacting you in hopes that you´ll be interested in this information. You are the 2nd magazine I have contacted. Last year "Assembly Magazine" published a letter/article I wrote to them about what I did while working for General Motors. They published it in their Nov. 2010 issue. It was entitled "Error Proof Fastening at GM". I wanted them to write more about WHY you´d want to utilize our system and what happens when you don´t. But they just used my contact letter. I am not a writer or pretend to be at all. I was just a line assembler turned engineer. I am not looking for money from you but would just like to get this information out to interested parties which read your magazine. I have a lot of information and if your interested please contact back. I will just copy some letters I wrote to various groups to this e-mail for you to review below. Thank you for any interest given to this.
Brad Lewis firstname.lastname@example.org
SUBJECT: National Vehicle Recalls / Root cause / Missing critical fasteners / Verbiage "fraud"
QUESTION: Why do recalls continue to reoccur with million + dollar state-of-the-art electronic error proofing present during the assembly process?
Hello… My name is Brad Lewis. I am a retired auto worker with 30+ years of assembly experience. I happened to work for GM (March 1976 thru Aug. 2006) but I am addressing all vehicle manufacturers domestic and foreign. I have tried to make a difference before and since retiring by contacting many manufacturers, attorneys, vehicle safety groups and NHTSA several times. I believe that I have NOT articulated my message well or correctly previously so as to bring attention to this concern and/or its relative importance and I am trying again. I believe my message beforehand to others was more on "our" accomplishments and an "assumption of knowledge" of others in which it was sent to help bring accountability to manufacturers. This was an oversight on my part. Vehicle manufacturers put consumers at risk everyday concerning critical fasteners that are missed during the assembly process. These vehicles then enter into the stream of commerce and go "unchecked" until a National recall is announced by the manufacture or NHTSA. NHTSA´s database is full of examples of missing critical fasteners generating recalls. Missed critical fasteners examples are wheel lugs, intermediate steering shaft bolts, steering wheel nuts, grounding screws, seat belt bolts and air bag bolts. There are many, many more. These fasteners can be bolts, screws and/or nuts.
Some recent NHTSA recalls just this year and last involving critical fasteners include the 2011 Chevy Cruz (#11V221000) which the entire steering wheel came off while being driven because the anchor nut was missing. The 2010 Suzuki Equator (#10V118000) had missing air bag bolts AND steering bolts missing. 2011 Hyundai Sonata (#PE10035) had steering column intermediate shaft fastener problems. Again, the 2011 Chevy Cruz with missing Intermediate steering shaft bolts. Then there´s GM´s large truck plant in Arlington TX (#11V339000) recalling their products (7) for missing steering bolts. Again, NHTSA´s database has data from all manufactures with missing critical fasteners. QUESTIONS: Why are manufacturers allowed to root cause their own recalls and incorporate their own "fixes"? Why are the root causes and "fixes" never made public and/or followed up by "someone" with inside knowledge of vehicle assembly issues? Why do these recalls repeat without anyone from the outside investigating the root cause of these vehicles entering the stream of commerce with missing fasteners? Does anyone realize that when a manufacturer and NHTSA announce a recall (concerning a missing critical fastener) that instead of saying outright that the fastener is MISSING alternative verbiage is allowed to be used. A missing critical fastener can be announced during a recall as "improperly fastened", "under- torque", "loose" and "insufficiently tightened" and probably more. I asked once during a weekly engineering torque meeting @ GM… "Why not just say missing"? The answer was that if its missing all this verbiage applies. In other words…. it just sounds better and leads the consumer to not believe that his/hers missing fastener was actually… MISSING! There IS a basic root cause for any missing fastener during the assembly process whether it´s critical or not.
Vehicle manufacturers utilize a "tool" which is called electronic error proofing during the assembly process. They spend millions on these various systems but they all basically work the same. These systems are designed to eliminate missing fastener operations but there is a basic root problem while these systems are being utilized. Recalls continued to be announced. And there are untold numbers of vehicles on our highways NOW with many missing fasteners. Some critical and some not.
I hired into GM as an assembler shortly after High School in 1976. I and a partner began addressing these missing fasteners issue in 2000 at GM/Saturn with a new methodology/tool developed while working on the assembly production line. This methodology/tool addressed the "missing link" within the electronic error proofing. After 3 years of great effort I and a partner were pulled from production and put into engineering full time to implement at the Spring Hill Assembly plant our new methodology/tool. Within 6 months GM mandated this methodology/tool across all their North American assembly plants. GM´s recalls during this time (2003-06´) concerning critical fasteners drastically declined. I retired in Aug 06´ after working in this engineering / management role for 3.5 years. GM´s lack of effort to "police" this mandate is obvious due to the announced recalls during the last 3+ years. There is a reason for this and it´s not good. I am not looking for money or reward but would like to bring to the forefront the basic root cause of these recalls. QUESTION: Who can hold vehicle manufacturers accountable for root causes and fixes (outside of NHTSA)? Why doesn´t anyone investigate why these recalls continue to happened with million dollar tools in place to avoid missing fasteners? Manufacturers do NOT want to tell "you" that they have assembly issues with gaping holes present. I kept all data of my efforts from 2000 thru Aug 2006 including a film GM asked me to make showing this gaping hole. An article I wrote which was published in Novembers 2010 issue of "Assembly Magazine" entitled "Error Proofed Fastening at GM" explains somewhat my efforts while at GM (Google… brad lewis gm … to review).
Until someone figures out how to bring attention and/or hold vehicle manufacturers accountable (outside of NHTSA) the general public will be at risk. The world would be aghast at the number of vehicles that have crashed and/or still being driven today with missing critical fasteners that nobody knew or know about now. There are Saturn vehicle´s now that were built at the Saturn plant with missing air bag bolts that are still being driven today. Can I "prove" this…. (maybe). But rest assured their out their along with other manufacturers vehicles. Manufacturers are SO CLOSE to getting it right but just won´t finish the final piece of the puzzle for various reasons. This is what I/we put together and know how to do. This is WHY recalls continue to be announced concerning "missing" fasteners. Until this problem is addressed outside of me it will continue unabated. A beyond "basic understanding" of automotive assembly procedures / knowledge needs to be understood to fully understand why these recalls continue. Even GM engineers had trouble at first when shown. I believe/know NHSTA does not understand. I am an expert at explaining this now to common laymen and to advanced engineers. This needs to be investigated and reported properly so as to bring attention to this issue to protect the American public and call out NHSTA with their lack of accountability.
931-698-6308 Cell 931-729-2414 Home 815 Old Hwy 50 East Centerville, Tennessee 37033
Vehicle Safety / Assembly
My name is Brad Lewis and I am retired from General Motors and reside in Tennessee. The reason I´m writing to you and others is twofold. First is to raise awareness to an issue that is of great importance to vehicle safety. And the second is to understand myself why I never hear of any vehicle safety groups, engineering firms, NHTSA or law firms hold any vehicle manufacturer accountable for their assembly procedures. What I´m addressing here is about critical fastening operations that are missed during production and enter our stream of commerce. Some of these missed fasteners are found in plant during production some at the dealerships during PDI inspections and some by consumers leading to National Recalls per NHTSA. NHTSA´s database is full of examples of missing and/or "under-torqued" fastening operations. Under-torqued means missing. I personally dealt with MANY of these incidents as an assembler and became an expert later at addressing missing critical fastening operations during production. Examples I dealt with were missed steering wheel nuts, intermittent steering shaft bolts, chassis bolts, seat belt bolts, electrical grounding screws/bolts and many others. Any of these examples when missed can lead to consumer injury up to and including death. But unknown to the general public, engineering firms, "vehicle experts" and law firms is a common leading cause to these fasteners being missed. And if it is known and understood (which I doubt) by others … why is there no accountability?
I worked for GM for 30.4 years total. The last 13 at the Saturn, Spring Hill Assembly plant. I retired Aug. 1st 2006. I became an expert dealing with missing fasteners on a moving assembly line while working on the Chassis line @ Saturn. In order to fully understand what I learned and developed an advanced understanding of electronic tools and electronic error-proofing systems on a moving assembly line must be known. I and a friend began exchanging ideas about the electronic tools supplied by GM engineers and their designed or desired function along with their placement on the manufacturing floor. The reason for my interest was because of the number of missing critical fasteners that operators across the manufacturing floor were being held accountable for at Saturn and other assembly plants despite the electronic error proofing present. My friend and I developed a methodology and a tool which takes electronic error-proofed assembly tools on the manufacturing floor and along with our tool, stops critical fastening fasteners from being "skipped" during production. In 2000 I started to campaign GM engineering to adopt our methodology which fell on deaf ears. In 2001 I was still pushing engineering and now management to pay attention because missing critical fasteners were still a HUGE problem for Saturn and all of GM. I was still failing. In 2002 I continued to document all critical fastening operations with electronic error proofing maps while now contacting GM Quality departments and upper management on WHY these fasteners were being missed. This worked and "they" paid attention but slowly. My friend and I were pulled directly from production starting Jan 1st 2003 and put into engineering full time. We were put in charge of now making the electronic error proofing system work as designed throughout the Saturn plant for all products. Within 6 months our methodology was mandated by GM Headquarters for all North American assembly plants per "Tool & Equipment Bulletin 15-12" @ the time. I consulted with all assembly plants either by their visiting Spring Hill or me traveling to them. We applied for a patent in 2003 and received one in 2005 (U.S. No. 7073241) I continued in this role for 3.5 years full time till retirement. GM´s critical fastening operations across North America greatly improved from 2003 thru 2006 pending my retirement.
GM mandated this engineering change because of liability issues which now make the millions + dollar electronic error proofing systems work properly across N.A. But the "Fox is guarding the hen house" @ GM and all manufactures. All vehicle manufactures utilize electronic error proofing in one form or another. There is a reason vehicle manufactures do NOT want to conform. I watch with disgust recalls being announced concerning critical fasteners being missed at all vehicle manufactures. GM´s Chevy Cruz steering wheel coming off while being driven, Freightliners missing steering fasteners, air bag bolts missing…. and many, many others. NHTSA´s database, again is full of examples of missing critical fasteners. You and all would be aghast at the number of missing critical fasteners that are NEVER caught and on our highways today. Why are manufactures allowed to incorporate their own "fixes" dealing with a recall instead of being held accountable concerning critical fastening operations skipped from their assembly lines?
I would like to understand why this is allowed to continue if it is understood by vehicle safety groups, law firms or vehicle production engineering experts. I would like to consult to safety groups, law firms, NHTSA and all experts on how a critical fastener can be skipped on vehicles on moving assembly lines while utilizing electronic error proofing. It is NOT what you would think or presented to you. When I was consulting with GM engineers the look on their faces was priceless when the "light came on". And I believe manufactures "hide" behind these systems. These systems are GOOD… but only if installed correctly, then audited and hence is the problem or National recalls will continue with no accountability concerning manufacturing. I developed many PowerPoint programs explaining various aspects of electronic error proofing during my engineering role at GM.. The then President of Saturn in 2004, Annette Clayton asked us to film the various ways critical fasteners can "escape" production assembly footprints even with electronic error proofing present. We did and I obtained a copy of film we did. I documented from 2000 thru Aug 2006 all efforts concerning critical fastening operations at our plant and some others. In 2010 "Assembly Magazine" published a featured article I wrote explaining (somewhat) what we did at Saturn concerning bringing change to GM. It´s entitled "Error Proof Fastening at GM" Nov. 2010 issue and the link is attached below for review. I would like to help bring accountability to all vehicle manufactures by helping others understand what the reality is of critical fastening operations on a moving assembly line to help prevent recalls and improve vehicle safety. Please help me with any advice or further knowledge concerning the above letter. I´d like a good reason to stop caring… I am offering to help you or others.
Thanks…. Brad Lewis
815 Old Hwy. 50 East Centerville, TN. 37033
(931-698-6308 Cell) (931-729-2414 Home)
I have sent out the following letter to some folks hoping to raise attention to how our vehicles in this county are assembled and the impact on society There is NO regulations or requirements concerning vehicle assembly procedures yet manufactures are never held accountable for the root cause of missing critical fastening operations. The closest they get held accountable is a public recall to address after the fact. But then back to business as usual. I certainly know a lot about this... please read below. I attached a very BASIC presentation meant for a common laymen but there is much more. And I do have an actual video showing how a critical fasteners escape production assembly footprints with electronic error proofing in place. I can send upon request. LIMITOOLCONSULTING (presentation name) was something I tried to put together in 2006 but lacked the expertise to launch. Thanks.
I´m looking for help and/or guidance to prevent further injury or deaths due to flawed vehicle assembly procedures. I want to help bring change and or justice to folks who have NO idea what´s going on during assembly.
My name is Brad Lewis. I live in Centerville TN. I am a retired GM employee with just short of 31 years of service. I worked all my years as an laborer/assembler except the last 3.5 years. What I´m about to tell you now may be hard to understand from a technical point of view but the basis of the story is the point I´m trying to make. This is not just about GM but all vehicle manufactures. GM is just where I happened to work and hone my skills and knowledge.
Today there is ZERO rules or regulations during production of any vehicle sold in the U.S.A. outside of the manufacture itself. This in itself is a huge oversight. NHTSA controls some requirements of a vehicles content but NO production procedures. Yet NHTSA is responsible for issuing national recalls concerning missed production procedures. But dealing with the root cause of a national recall is left up to the assembly manufacture(s). They "chase" each other´s tails and are much too close to each other I believe. I made a huge change within GM starting in 1999 and becoming full time in 2003 to control critical missed fastening operations. But the "Fox is guarding the henhouse" @ GM still. How do I know this after being retired since Aug. 1st 2006 and having not stepped a foot inside an assembly plant since? Because some lady in Minn. had her steering wheel come completely off while driving 65 mph on Hwy 10 in March on her NEW 2011 Chevy Cruze. I´m sure you heard about it. Now GM has another national recall on over a missed critical fastener.
When I transferred from Mich. to the TN. Saturn plant on Jan. 1st 1994 I had NO idea what was about to happen. I went from being a metal parts maker in Mich. to an assembler @ Saturn. The assembly tools used were all electric tools and connected to electronic tool monitors. These monitors were suppose to "make sure" all fasteners connected to it were "present and installed" per each assembly footprint. But still MANY, MANY critical and non-critical fasteners escaped their assigned assembly footprints. Some of these fasteners were "discovered" @ the plant and some were reported by the dealership during their PDI inspection (Pre Delivery Inspection). And some were reported or found before and/or after an accident by others which lead to costly National recalls. Not just @ our plant but across all manufactures this happens. This happens because while manufactures are trying to do the right thing with their installed electronic error proofing systems they just don´t control where the data comes from. Simply put... It´s easy as an assembler to skip an operation and the error proofing system will be "fooled" into believing its "done its job". And the data collected is relied upon by management and all as "job complete". This is possible because the tool collecting the data is not controlled to a specific area it´s assigned to collect the data within. When this is the case all of these multi-million dollar systems are useless and can be run "out of sync".
Operators were held accountable by engineering, quality, and all levels of management. Everyone was chasing each other´s tails. I refused to be held accountable for this engineering flaw. Starting in 1999 I approached engineering and management @ out plant about a plan a friend and I came up with to control all the electronic tools to their proper assembly footprint only. We were told it was impossible! Obviously I had to get smarter. So I started to document all assembly footprints in my area and came up with a mathematical system in which to apply numbers and SHOW what was happening on paper in scale. Still no results. Obviously I was talking to the wrong people. Engineers didn´t get it. So went to the top of management @ our plant and told them how critical fasteners were escaping causing these costly quality spills. They in turn asked the engineers if this was true. Yes was the answer. The engineers then said it would be difficult or impossible to correct. We told upper management we could do it. We did one operation requested. The air bag install on Saturn cars. It worked perfectly. We had a full time job going directly from assembler into Industrial Engineering starting Jan.1st 2003. Within a few months we were flown to Mich. to roll out our program to all of GM North America. Within 1 more month it was mandated to all assembly plants to abide by. I was flown to several plants to help and evaluate and all others visited ours to learn and see. A single GM corporate torque auditor audits all of GM North American operations for compliance of this mandate along with many other items required. I worked this job till my retirement on Aug. 1st. 2006.
While in my "engineering" roll I dealt with many missed critical fasteners within the plant, dealerships and from customers while we controlled each tool one by one. The more we controlled the better quality and production improved. But obviously GM isn´t doing very well keeping these tools aligned or the steering wheel on the Cruze would NOT have come off on the customer. She´s lucky she´s alive and/or did not kill anyone else. There are many Saturn vehicles being driven today with missing air bag bolts. Which ones... I don´t know.... but I promise there´re out their along with other fasteners. I wrote a featured article for ASSEMBLY MAGAZINE in 2010 entitled "Error Proof Fastening at GM" in which I was attempting to bring change or attention to this assembly flaw today for all manufacturers. Using Google enter (brad lewis gm) it will pop up. I even received a U.S.patent for the methodology (No. 7073241).
What I´m looking for is guidance or advise in how to bring attention or justice to people who have no idea the potential for missed critical fasteners or have been harmed because of a missed critical fastener(s). I believe all vehicle manufactures should control their assembly tools so as to avoid these happening. Manufactures hide behind electronic error proofing as a failsafe system and it IS NOT. I´d give anything to see the electronic build ticket from the Chevy Cruze recall. It will show NOTHING amiss. I know why and GM does also. And the world show know also. If it took me 3+ years to convince GM it had a huge assembly problem so how do I convince people outside of the "assembly world"? I contacted NHTSA on 3-1-07 and again this month and probably nothing will happen this time around either. And remember this isn´t just GM only. And the Toyota acceleration issue could be something as simple as a loose or missing ground wire during production not anything to do with the electrical system but with manufacturing only. Is anyone looking at manufacturing as a possible cause? Maybe an intermittent ground from assembly?
I am NOT looking for attention or a "million" dollars... I just want to bring attention to this issue for change and/or help injured people because of manufacturing flaws. Please contact with any ideas or forward to anyone who might have an interest. The Chevy Cruze steering wheel recall really bothers me.... someone could have been easily killed. GM or any manufacturer does NOT want anyone to know that this is a manufacturing flaw because it will spread like a cancer to other critical fastening operations then. Check out the article from 2010.
931-729-2414 Home / Fax
815 Old Hwy. 50 East
Centerville, TN. 37033
|Has anyone ever once thought "outside the box" concerning sudden acceleration issues? What I mean by this is that it may not be a design or engineering flaw at all. This would help explain the difficulty in reproducing the occurrences´. Whenever an electronic test is done to "reproduce" sudden acceleration I´m sure all connections including all necessary grounds are checked and double checked. This is rightfully done because it´s assumed all connections and grounds are done correctly at the factory level. This should be the case and rightfully so. I dealt with many ground wire screws that came directly from the factory assembly floor completely missed and were about to enter the stream of commerce at dealerships or did.
Most but not all the grounds on a vehicles wiring harness are secured by finger started screws or small bolts and then "ran down" to proper torque utilizing a hand held electronic error proofed tool during assembly. I have seen finger started fasteners for ground wires that passed directly through all testing that were never properly torqued with electronic tool. This can lead to a ground wire being intermittent.
I contacted a vehicle wiring expert witness named Dr. Anthony Anderson in Great Britain last year. I asked if a ground wire connections fastener was only finger started and worked intermittently what would happen. He stated that it´s than possible that the designed wiring harness could work not as designed or expected. Under certain conditions and sequences electrical / electronic items could be controlled in non-desirable ways.
So what I´m saying above is this… sudden acceleration issues could be a manufacturing issue and NOT a flawed designed issue. I checked the electronic data base concerning a known missing ground fastener and found numerous times the system showed no missed fastening operation referencing "this" missed ground connection. This goes directly back to a manufacturing engineering issue concerning the electronic hand held tool, its assigned production footprint and the undesirable options left open to assembly operators. These manufacturing flaws are what can lead to numerous consumers problems which include injury, death and National recalls. What I´d like to know is WHO CARES?
Brad Lewis 931-698-6308
|The "ASSEMBLY MAGAZINE" article referenced above can be found in its archives "Nov. 2010" "Error Proof Fastening at GM".|