The APQP, or Advanced Product Quality Planning Process, is a proven approach for developing a new product in a way that avoid the most common pitfalls. It helps improve quality, reduce costs, and compress lead times.
I have heard many people tell me “design and development is not linear, so it is hard to formalize”. That’s true, but there are ways to manage it as a process. That’s the purpose of the APQP.
Why is it “advanced“? The ISO 9001 standard pushes companies to plan for their design and development work, but it doesn’t go very much in depth. Fortunately, the large car manufacturers have formalized a detailed set of process steps they expect their suppliers to follow. They call it “Advanced” Product Quality Planning.
Its objective is to maximize the probability that the new product will fulfill the customer’s requirements.
Its steps can be outlined as below:
1.1 Inputs: customer suggestions/requirements, historical information about similar products, the company’s objectives…
1.2 Output: a detailed plan that includes goals for design and for quality/reliability, preliminary process information, and preliminary product features.
2. Product design & development
2.1 Input: step 1.2.
2.2 Outputs: design FMEA, DFM analysis, drawings and first prototypes, material specifications, reviews and verifications, requirements for testing equipment….
3. Process design & development
3.1 Input: step 2.2.
3.2 Outputs: process flow chart, process FMEA, process instructions, quality system review and preliminary control plan…
4. Product & process validation
4.1 Input: step 3.2.
4.2 Outputs: a pilot production run that went through the process steps outlined above and went through testing & inspection, and detailed evaluation of the results.
5. Feedback, assessment, and corrective actions
5.1 Input: step 4.2.
5.2 Outputs: application of what was learned in step 4 to get closer to the goals of step 1. The objective is to be ready for production launch.
The APQP process is one of the “core tools” required by the ISO/TS 16949 standard. Thousands of companies follow it. It works. Our consultants have used it successfully to help a few US companies with production launch of new products.
I believe most importers who develop custom-made products could get a lot of benefit from this structured approach. Naturally it requires to work closely with the manufacturer and to understand their processes, and that can be difficult. But following this discipline only increases the chances of success.
What do you think?