APQP Software - Not Just for Document Creation
Gregory F. Gruska, President, The Third Generation, Inc. and Donald Cherry, Director
Marketing, Omnex Systems
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Historically, Advanced Product Quality Planning (APQP) software has been purchased
by quality managers to reduce the time spent creating APQP related documentation.The
goal was to get the documents to your customers in the format that the customers'
required and have a documentation trail that would survive an audit.In the past
twelve months, the marketplace seems to be changing, and more and more engineering
directors are seeing the value of FMEAs and Control Plans and are using them in
the management of their design and manufacturing processes by examining and then
attempting to control various failure events in their products and processes before
the failures arise, rather than creating products that meet minimum specifications
and letting the service and warranty departments handle the quality issues.
Advanced Product Quality Planning is a structured product lifecycle management (PLM)
approach to defining and establishing the steps necessary to assure that a product
(or service) satisfies the customer. It starts at the concept stage with product
development and continues through production implementation and continual improvement.
The APQP Reference Manual appeared on the scene in June 1994, published by the Supplier
Quality Requirements Task Force as one of the harmonized reference manuals, procedures,
reporting formats and technical nomenclature used by Chrysler (now DCX), Ford and
General Motors. This harmonization effort lead to QS-9000 and eventually to ISO/TS 16949:2009.
The APQP Reference Manual, which combined the PLM approaches and requirements of
the OEMs and participating suppliers, utilizes the PDSA (Plan, Do, Study, Act) improvement
cycle. The purpose of the Product Quality Planning Cycle is "to emphasize:
- Up-front planning. The first three quarters of the cycle are devoted to up-front
product quality planning through product/process validation.
- The act of implementation. The fourth quarter is the stage where the importance
of evaluating the output serves two functions: to determine if customers are satisfied
and to support the pursuit of continual improvement.
Even thought the intent of APQP is to focus on continual improvement and process
knowledge management, the actual implementation focus, more often than not, was
on compliance: i.e., filling out the forms. The reasons for this are varied: from
the fact that QS-9000 was built around ISO 9001:1994, which was element-based rather
than process-based; to the fact that many QS consultants and training offerings
were retreads of the element-based ISO consulting and training; to fact that many
supplier just wanted to know what was the minimal effort needed to continue selling
to the automotive industry.
With the publication of ISO/TS 16949:2009, things have begun to change. ISO/TS 16949:2009
is based on ISO 9001:2008,which utilizes a process-based quality management system
model. This is more in line with the PDSA cycle that underlies APQP. Organizations
with mature quality management systems are now starting to utilize APQP as intended
as a prevention and risk management approach.
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