APQP – THE BASICS

Icon APQP

APQP – all the details summarized for you in a clear and understandable manner:

  • Definition of APQP
  • Methodology – aim and purpose of APQP
  • Phases, milestones and tools
  • Successful advanced quality planning with the right software

WHAT DOES APQP MEAN? – DEFINITION

APQP stands for Advanced Product Quality Planning, i.e. what makes APQP important is the fact that it always involves advanced planning: Which steps and necessary measures must be taken before production kicks off to ensure you have a first-class product at the end of the process? APQP is a highly structured project management tool based on the fact that the quality of a product is essentially the result of planning and development – not of the series production itself.

The rules and regulations on which APQP is based are VDA 6.1, EAQF and IATF 16949. This latter standard combines national and international quality standards within the automotive sector.

METHODOLOGY – AIM AND PURPOSE OF APQP

Through the automotive industry, which has been the driving force, APQP has meanwhile become one of the most important requirements to be met by a QM system. This has long since become an established procedure in other industries, too, and is now firmly embedded in the respective QM workflows.

Regardless of the industry concerned, the aim of APQP is to increase product quality, and accordingly comply with customer demands, through a consistent and target-oriented project management system.

This Advanced Product Quality Planning process is a structured process with standardized methods to ensure that all the required steps in the process are completed in a timely fashion to avoid problems when series production commences. Likewise, failure avoidance is also of prime concern. The chronological order, application of the individual methods and execution of the individual steps may vary, whereby the APQP model pursues an integrated concept. On the one hand, it serves as a guideline for the development process and on the other, as a standard for exchanging results between everyone involved in the product process. This results in a tight integration of the suppliers in the quality planning processes of the respective manufacturers.

APQP PHASES, MILESTONES AND TOOLS

Normally, the APQP process divides the project into five phases:

  1. Planning
  2. Product design and development
  3. Process design and development
  4. Product and process validation
  5. Feedback, evaluation and corrective action

The APQP status report is used throughout the whole process as this process needs to be accordingly documented. Each individual phase is evaluated in a separate review process in order to determine whether there is a need for further action prior to initiating the next steps, resp. measures.

APQP Phase 1: Planning

During the planning phase, the main focus is on ensuring that the needs and requirements of the customers have been understood. The overall framework for the project is also defined at this stage. Possible milestones and deliverables may, for example, consist of specifications, reliability targets or quality goals.

APQP Phase 2: Product design and development

The goal of this phase is to develop a manufacturable component design suitable for series production. The planning of the production and assembly processes also plays a role. The tools and milestones used in this phase include the design and product FMEA, prototypes and the control plan/production control plan.

APQP Phase 3: Process design and development

During this third phase, the focus is on the production process itself. The objectives are to develop effective production systems and to ensure suitable plant/machinery is available. The tools and measures used include process flow charts and the process FMEA.

APQP Phase 4: Product and process validation

This phase is concerned with ensuring that the manufacturing processes produce products that fully comply with customer specifications (validation). Possible tools and milestones may, for example, consist of gauge capability analyses and finish off with sampling in accordance with PPAP specifications (Production Part Approval Process), respectively initial sample test reports.

APQP Phase 5: Feedback, evaluation and corrective action

This fifth and final phase deals with continuous feedback, evaluation and corresponding corrective action within the overall APQP process. The main objective is to comply with customer requirements in the long term. Possible deliverables and milestones may, for example, consist of achieving a reduced number of variants during the manufacturing processes . These can be determined using quality control charts and calculated using statistical methods – one of the most common being the Statistical Process Control method (SPC).

The above five APQP phases automatically answer the core quality management questions facing all manufacturers:

  • Are we capable of manufacturing our products within the scope of the required, resp. stipulated specifications? (= process capability)
  • Do we actually manufacture our products within the limits of the specifications stipulated? (= process monitoring)
  • Can we demonstrate at all times that our products were manufactured within the limits of the respective specifications? (= documentation)
  • Are we continuously optimizing our products and processes? (= quality improvement)

SUCCESSFUL ADVANCED QUALITY PLANNING WITH THE RIGHT SOFTWARE

In order to ensure your project management activities during the product development phase are structured and effective, we recommend APQP software support.

The advantages of APQP software at a glance:

  • Structured project tracking and an overview throughout all the phases of your project at all times
  • Systematic communication control between everyone involved in the project
  • Complete transparency regarding your status, milestones and resources
  • Ongoing documentation of all the process steps
  • Use of lessons learned from past projects
  • The costs of your project management and project development activities are reduced and efficiency increased

The above describes how a software solution, such as CASQ-it APQP, can help you to carry out your Advanced Product Quality Planning successfully and efficiently to avoid problems when series production commences. As part of a comprehensive project management process, this allows you to achieve a maximum level of product quality at a very early stage in the product planning process as well as in the run-up to series production. You are supported by project templates that help you to get your project off to a quick start, an integrated resource management tool, seamless and terminal device-independent communications via a web browser, regular status reports, as well as an effective project monitoring system based on an integrated alarm system incorporated in the respective Gantt charts and to-do lists. Thanks to the lessons learned feature, the experience gained during the process is also used to optimize your project templates – thus automatically ensuring continuous improvement.

Do you have any questions on how to introduce a software solution to professionally manage the Advanced Product Quality Planning process at your company? Or would you like training on CASQ-it APQP?  Then please feel free to contact us.

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