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Supplier Quality Improvement Engineer - Juan Ardila


This article is from the “Cummins: All Access” series, a compilation of unique, reality-based stories featuring Cummins employees. The series is designed to give a behind-the-scenes perspective of Cummins employees as they develop their careers.

Connecting the dots between quality products and the best component suppliers in the industry is critical to the long-term success of Cummins.  As a Supplier Quality Improvement Engineer, Juan Ardila is in charge of helping bridge the gap between each.  Juan, an engineering graduate from the University of South Florida and MBA from the University of Indianapolis, has been with Cummins since 2012 and is an ASQ Certified Quality Engineer.

Juan’s primary role is to measure and ensure the quality of incoming components to Cummins high standards.  It’s a critical job because there are different situations inside manufacturing facilities that can decrease quality during production.  Juan’s analysis helps increase the ease of quality and assembly during manufacturing and have precision performance in the field, an essential facet of customer satisfaction and long-term brand reputation.

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Juan’s day begins with a morning strategy meeting to implement a new process that helps improve supplier quality. The process includes comparing Six Sigma data against a set of international metrics to provide a baseline and goal for both Company and suppliers.  He sits down with members of cross-functional teams to brainstorm about the process currently in place and to define a teamwork plan for enhancing critical information flow.

“Small projects are you doing the work, but a big project like this focuses on strategy and assigning bigger responsibilities to the initiative.  The good thing about Cummins is our talent here.  The team gives you the freedom and empowerment to make changes.  You get a lot of responsibility being put into the project lead role and collaborating with different departments and teams.”    

After the meeting, the conversation continues flowing during impromptu conversations around the engineering department.  Juan and his team all enjoy lunch together to escalate some of the ideas.  It’s a unique scenario where they move from a formal meeting room to the department kitchen to collaborate over food and drink in the department kitchen.  The team has become a network of tight-knit friends who are at ease with sharing ideas.

“I really enjoy the camaraderie within my team.  We often eat lunch together and laugh, everybody gets along here.  Sometimes the conversation can quickly turn from work responsibilities to children, to soccer and then right back to work again.”

After the lunch meeting, Juan has an international conference call with one of the 25 suppliers that he partners with.  It’s a call to review training initiatives with new members of the team who are being brought up to speed on how Cummins looks to improve best practices over time.

“Our team often connects with suppliers for training and I have weekly meetings with large suppliers. It’s good to have regular conversations about quality with my contacts.  We create an agenda and timelines for resolving any issues they are dealing with and we listen to them when they have needs that we can address.  It works well, we are fortunate to have great partners.”

After the call, Juan has a face-to-face meeting with a visiting supplier who is planning to move to a larger facility.  The focus of the meeting is how the Supplier’s move might impact quality and measuring production standards before and after a transition.  Juan enjoys these meetings because it allows him to develop personal relationships with the people he works with.

“They need to feel that we care and we know they are good at what they do.  We are providing training resources to make them better, which can improve everyone’s quality.  Even if it just a brief call to check in, it helps us maintain the trust and bond between the companies.”

Finally, before ending his work day, Juan attends a Society of Hispanic Professional Engineer (SHPE) meeting in the office.  Cummins is a huge advocate of diversity and has an outstanding partnership with SHPE and other diversity groups that employees can be a part of.  His membership allows for Juan to network and meets new employees who join the group.

After he leaves the office, Juan and some other members of his Hispanic affinity group head off to the softball diamonds.  His Company-sponsored softball team is just one of the many things the affinity group members participate in together.

“It is fun to work here because the people are diverse and you get exposure to different cultures.  Some are from Africa, some are from Spain, and you get to know lots of people from around the world.  Here you’re working with people who might have been your classmates in college.  You get to know them and build real relationships, which creates a good bond with everyone on the team.  You can have fun and go to work too.”