APQP Explained: 2021 Guide

27 Apr 2021 by Jimmy Nguyen

What is APQP?

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APQP stands for Advanced Product Quality Planning.

In the manufacturing industry, as the complexity of a product increases—for example, a car is made of 30,000 parts including the smallest parts like screws, nuts, and bolts—so does the probability of error in the product lifecycle as work transitions downstream through the process chain in design, manufacturing, quality, supply chain, and other internal & external teams.

This is especially true for new products and new processes.

APQP is a set of standard procedures that documents the ability to produce a capable part with a reliable and repeatable process through a mutual understanding of the requirements and thorough risk assessment.

APQP is part of the five Core Tools (IATF 16949-compliant) for effective quality management with PPAP, FMEA, MSA, and SPC being the other core tools.

SUMMARY

Top 6 things APQP does:
  1. Identify any product and process risk.
  2. Develop contingency plans.
  3. Review designs for manufacturing practicality.
  4. Create and prepare suppliers for requirements and milestones.
  5. Validate a product and a process that satisfies customer requirements.
  6. Monitor on-going production to ensure process stability.

Why is APQP important?

APQP benefits the OEM (customer) and supply chain (contractor) by having a structured agreement and procedure for product definitions and requirements. It provides a platform to have efficient and effective decisions and communication.

This avoids any interpretation and confusion that may delay production, create a sub-standard part, and/or increase costs.

For OEMs dealing with multiple suppliers and their sub-tier suppliers, this provides the following:

  1. Product conformity across the board.
  2. Faster product time to market.
  3. Transparent communication with the supplier(s).
  4. Measure a supplier’s capability to meet requirements.
For the supply chain, this outlines what’s exactly needed to achieve part approval and compliance:
  1. Structured communication and understanding of the process and product requirements.
  2. Early identification of errors.
  3. Transparent communication with the customer.
  4. Happy customer, more business.

APQP helps reduce risk by identifying problems earlier in the design phase since the cost of correction is much smaller earlier in the product lifecycle.

Compared to the later stages such as operations and support, the cost of correction is much higher.

SUMMARY

Top 5 Benefits of APQP:
  1. Better quality product through collaboration.
  2. Catch risks earlier in the lifecycle to minimize delays.>
  3. Consistent production runs with better lead times.
  4. Validation ensures product conformity across multiple suppliers.
  5. Suppliers are given better direction and expectations before cutting metal.

When is APQP necessary?

APQP is typically used for New Product Introductions (NPIs) when the OEM and suppliers are developing a new product and process together or when revising product or process changes after release.

How the APQP process works.

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The APQP process is composed of a cross-functional collaborative team composed of members in engineering, manufacturing, quality, procurement, and other functions with a project team leader responsible for managing the planning process.

The APQP process consists of 5 phases:

  • Phase 1: Planning
  • Phase 2: Product Design and Development
  • Phase 3: Process Design and Development
  • Phase 4: Product and Process Validation
  • Phase 5: Feedback and Continuous Improvement

Each phase is sequential, so like a pyramid, each phase is built on the foundation of the former then continues to build on the next.

Each phase consists of inputs (data) and outputs (deliverables). The output of one phase becomes the input for the next phase.

Phase 1: Planning

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Phase 1 is all about understanding the customer requirements and expectations.

Inputs:

  1. Voice of Customer
    • Market research
    • Historical warranty and quality information
    • Team experience
  2. Business plan/marketing strategy
  3. Product/process benchmark data
  4. Product/process assumptions
  5. Product reliability studies
  6. Customer inputs

Outputs:

  1. Design goals
  2. Reliability and quality goals
  3. Preliminary bill of materials
  4. Preliminary process flow chart
  5. Preliminary listing of special products and process characteristics
  6. Product assurance plan
  7. Management support

Phase 2: Product Design and Development

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Phase 2 verifies design feasibility and compliance.

Inputs (from Phase 1 outputs):

  1. Design goals
  2. Reliability and quality goals
  3. Preliminary bill of materials
  4. Preliminary process flow chart
  5. Preliminary listing of special products and process characteristics
  6. Product assurance plan
  7. Management support

Outputs:

  1. Design failure mode and effects analysis (DFMEA)
  2. Design for manufacturability and assembly
  3. Design verification
  4. Design reviews
  5. Prototype build – control plan
  6. Engineering drawings (including math drawing)
  7. Material specifications
  8. Drawing and specification changes

Phase 3: Process Design and Development

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Phase 3 verifies the manufacturing capability and measurement methods.

Inputs (from Phase 2 outputs):

  1. Design failure mode and effects analysis (DFMEA)
  2. Design for manufacturability and assembly
  3. Design verification
  4. Design reviews
  5. Prototype build – control plan
  6. Engineering drawings (including math drawing)
  7. Material specifications
  8. Drawing and specification changes

Outputs:

  1. Packaging standards and specifications
  2. Product/process quality system review
  3. Process flow chart
  4. Floor plan layout
  5. Characteristics matrix
  6. Process failure mode and effects analysis (PFMEA)
  7. Process instructions
  8. Measurement systems analysis plan
  9. Preliminary process capability study plan
  10. Management support (including operator staffing and training plan)

Phase 4: Product and Process Validation

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Phase 4 validates the complete manufacturing process and final product.

Inputs (from Phase 3 outputs):

  1. Packaging standards and specifications
  2. Product/process quality system review
  3. Process flow chart
  4. Floor plan layout
  5. Characteristics matrix
  6. Process failure mode and effects analysis (PFMEA)
  7. Process instructions
  8. Measurement systems analysis plan
  9. Preliminary process capability study plan
  10. Management support (including operator staffing and training plan)

Outputs:

  1. Significant production run
  2. Measurement systems evaluation
  3. Preliminary process capability study
  4. Production part approval
  5. Production validation testing
  6. Packaging evaluation
  7. Product control plan
  8. Quality planning sign-off and management support

Phase 5: Feedback and Continuous Improvement

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Phase 5 closes the feedback loop.

Inputs (from Phase 4 outputs):

  1. Significant production run
  2. Measurement systems evaluation
  3. Preliminary process capability study
  4. Production part approval
  5. Production validation testing
  6. Packaging evaluation
  7. Product control plan
  8. Quality planning sign-off and management support

Outputs:

  1. Reduced variation
  2. Improved customer satisfaction
  3. Improved delivery and service
  4. Effective use of lessons learned

Who maintains the APQP standard?

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Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG) maintains the APQP standard.

The group has over 4,000 members which consist of major automotive giants: Ford, GM, Honda, Nissan, PACCAR, Stellantis, Tesla, Toyota, Volkswagen, etc., and many of their part suppliers.

Other OEMs beyond the automotive sector include BAE Systems, Boeing, Caterpillar, Deere, and more.

Digitizing the APQP process

APQP is a huge endeavor that is a lot of work.

Some challenges include the considerable number of supply chains and people involved, the complexity of the project, and the number of constant changes.

Considering the number of documents, processes, and data generated during the APQP process, the traditional drawing-based, paper-based workflow can lead to increased laborious and repetitive manual work (especially rework), reliance on human interpretation, and dealing with multiple data formats and files.

For example, it isn't uncommon for a PPAP submission to be 100+ pages for a part as simple as a standard bolt in PDF format. This document takes time for both the OEM and supplier to create and process. Additionally, measurement results reported in this PDF are used only for formal PPAP acceptance when valuable data should be mined for insights.

Digitization is the future here.

MBD Benefits

A model-based approach called MBD (model-based definition) uses a single source of truth: the 3D CAD model + PMI (product manufacturing information) to store the geometry and manufacturing data to build and measure a part that could be used downstream throughout entire the supply chain.

This model contains a large portion of the product definition and requirements which form the core of the APQP dataset. Additional data like risk information and process plans can also be generated using requirement management software tools or MBDVidia

When you have a digital source for your data which includes production definition and tolerances (MBD), product requirements and risks, process plan info, etc., then it all becomes streamlined significantly.

The results: automatic time-savings and a more repeatable and faster APQP process.

The ISO QIF standard provides the ability to digitize the MBD, measurement plans (FMEA and process), measurement results (PPAP and MSA), and measurement statistics (SPC). QIF is rapidly being adopted by the industry as the digital backbone of the MBD transformation in the manufacturing industry.

If APQP unifies design and supply chain communications and expectations, the MBD approach unifies design and supply chain processes and data.


Have questions about APQP?

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Capvidia is a leader in MBD-based workflows and all things pertaining to digital transformation in the manufacturing industry.


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