ADVANCED PRODUCT QUALITY PLANNERS ARE TRUE ALLROUNDERS
I’d like to take you on a short journey back through time: Around about 1998, project preparations at the company employing me at the time, a gearbox manufacturer for manual transmission systems, were in full swing. This was due to the fact that a completely new plant for a completely new gearbox system for one of our most important customers was to be built.
Our customer at that time was one of the “Big Three” (Ford, GM, Chrysler). And what was this customer demanding? Implementation of the Automotive Core Tools, first and foremost, APQP (Advanced Product Quality Planning).
APQP? Back then, you couldn’t find much on this topic through an Internet search engine, such as Google or Yahoo. So, we had the customer explain the methodology to us and then went on to implement APQP into our processes. After all, the customer is king, and his wishes and requirements must be realized accordingly in order to ensure a successful cooperation.
The result of all this: Our suppliers were now also supposed to work with these APQP advanced planning tools. At the time, I myself was working in supplier management – so I obtained the APQP reference manual, familiarized myself with the subject and then tried to implement these processes at our suppliers. Which, frankly speaking, it proved extremely difficult to do back then due to the lack of knowledge. Today, at the present time, this should certainly no longer be a problem – at least as far as knowledge is concerned.
But what does my trip down memory lane have to do with the heading of this article – i.e.: Advanced product quality planners are true allrounders? In a nutshell: Absolutely everything!
APQP: Method and content
The APQP method rolls all the so-called Automotive Core Tools (APQP, FMEA/Failure Mode and Effects Analysis, MSA/Measurement System Analysis, SPC/Statistical Process Control and PPAP/Production Part Approval Process) into one.
Who makes a good advanced product quality planner?
Someone with a good command of all the Automotive Core Tools:
Depending on the extent to which an advanced product quality planner is responsible for the methods him/herself, or if he/she is at least working in a team, basic knowledge of these methods is absolutely essential! Without this, it simply won’t work.
It is taken for granted that he/she has a knowledge of project management as well as the respective know-how regarding how the Automotive Core Tools interact.
Here are some examples:
- Relationship between a D-FMEA and the DVP (Design Verification Plan)
- Relationship between a P-FMEA and the CPL (Control Plan)
Someone who is a team player:
Where these methods are concerned, nothing goes without team play. In this day and age, it is impossible for any single human being to handle the enormous volume of knowledge that is required in some cases (e.g., in the FMEA area). This is because the scope and content are far too complex.
Someone who possesses leadership qualities:
Even if the job in hand is all about operational tasks, teams still need to be led. If it is the responsibility of the advanced product quality planner to complete the FMEA, the FMEA teams need to be managed in a focused, effective and efficient manner.
In my view, the skills that an advanced product quality planner primarily needs include: Empathy, the ability to listen, assertiveness, a nature that constantly challenges the facts, a positive attitude towards continuous improvement, knowing who is needed for which task – who can provide support – who the bearers of know-how are, someone who can sense early on when things threaten to go wrong, etc.
Someone with the ability to moderate and present:
- Since we were on the subject of FMEA: The ability to moderate FMEAs
- Ability to summarize the results of the advanced product quality planning process (highlights) and present these to the steering committee.
- Ability to discuss the progress of the project with the customer and, where required, to coordinate and promote further measures accordingly
Someone with a high frustration tolerance level:
Advanced product quality planning is not a “one man/one woman show”, either. An advanced product quality planner, like any other employee, needs to allow him/herself to be helped now and then. A sponsor within the company may be able to provide support. Or maybe you have colleagues who can help you.
Someone with the ability to accept help:
Auch die Qualitätsvorausplanung ist keine „One Man/One Woman Show“.
Qualitätsvorausplaner müssen sich, wie jeder andere Mitarbeiter, hin und wieder helfen lassen. Ein Sponsor im Unternehmen kann unterstützen. Oder es stehen Ihnen Kollegen und Kolleginnen hilfreich zur Seite.
To sum up:
The tasks of an advanced product quality planner are manifold, highly interesting and always diverse. A high level of competence with regard to the knowledge involved and how to deal with common quality methods is a basic requirement. A job for true allrounders!
For over 35 years, Roland Blank has been working in the quality management field – since 2011 as General Manager of TQM Services GmbH, based in Bad Friedrichshall (northern Baden-Württemberg). His work has allowed him to acquire a broad knowledge of the topic of quality through a wide range of different quality projects.
For decades now, he has been conducting system/process audits, moderating FMEAs and providing help and advice to companies in the automotive industry; since 2016, he has also been a trainer at VDA QMC, holding quality seminars for one of the license holders.
He has gained a wealth of experience in the quality/supplier management area and on the methods used in the automotive industry. In addition, he has gained valuable experience in the creation of business processes and in supplier process approvals. In his role as a supplier relations manager, Roland Blank was responsible for companies supplying various different technologies. He also spent many years planning the quality of a range of engine parts at a car manufacturing company.
For more information and contact details (German Website): https://www.tqm.com/