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Zero Defect PHEV Batteries

October 4, 2010

Management theories have come and gone, or evolved over time. In the early 1900s, it was the Gilbreths who developed time and motion study. They determined how long each motion should take and established a unit of measurement for these motions: the Therblig. Interestingly, the Therblig is Gilbreth spelled backward, with the th reversed.

Though pioneered by others during and prior to WWII, GE was an early adopter of statistical quality control. Feigenbaum championed the introduction of statistical methods and Total Quality Control in GE during the 1950s.

Eventually Total Quality Control morphed into six-sigma limits where GE also played an important role in pioneering the use of six-sigma.

In between Gilbreth and the adoption of six-sigma by industry, there was a management theory known as Zero Defects.

The idea behind Zero Defects was that by trying to achieve perfection, errors would be reduced, quality would be improved and costs would be lowered.

When looking at how my appliances and automobiles have performed, I’m not sure that Zero Defects was very effective.

This brings me to a product where zero defects will be critical: Lithium-ion batteries used in Plug-in electric vehicles.

Safety could be the Achilles heel of lithium-ion batteries. There has been some concern about fires caused by lithium-ion batteries in laptop computers.

The chemistry and construction of lithium-ion batteries being proposed for PHEVs and EVs is such that the threat of fire should be virtually non-existent; however, if a fire were to burn down a home while the Lithium-ion battery was being charged it could result in PHEVs and EVs being rejected by the public. It could be the end of electric vehicles.

This is reason enough for automobile manufacturers to be deliberate in how quickly they ramp up production of PHEVs. Safety must be uppermost in their minds.

Quality control, from design through manufacturing, must be perfect, and make absolutely certain there is no threat from fire while batteries are being charged.

Rushing to increase production could be the worst thing that could happen to Plug-in electric vehicles.

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