An Introduction to APQP


APQP is the acronym for Advanced Product Quality Planning. This isn’t a management buzzword. It is a systematic planning approach that borrows a lot from industrial and manufacturing systems engineering.

What is APQP?

We’ve already spelled out what the acronym APQP stands for. But what does it mean? It is a design philosophy that is similar to Design for Six Sigma. The goal is to create a product quality plan that meets quality standards across the board. This includes high quality product as well as the systems used to deliver the product to the customer. That means always sending the right product to the person who orders it as well as building a perfect end product almost every time.

APQP was developed by the automotive industry. The automotive industry has to take customer requirements into account to a far greater degree than most other industries. That’s why they split from the ISO in terms of quality management systems, too, and created IATF 16949. Quality is defined by what the customer wants as well as a functional product that performs flawlessly.

APQP includes statistical process control (SPC), failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA), measurement systems analysis (MSA) and production part approval processes (PPAP). And under APQP, these standards and processes are influenced primarily by the automotive industry, though APQP can be used by any other industry.

What are the benefits of APQP?

FMEA when applied from design to product deliver dramatically reduces the risk of failure of parts. You’ll build a more robust product that’s much less likely to fail. And your detailed risk analysis provides a certain measure of protection from liability claims.

SPC improves the overall quality of what comes off the production line. You recognize when some process is starting to move out of specifications and can deal with it before you end up with 100 defective seals or computer boards. This indirectly reduces rework costs and scrap.

Measurement systems analysis is a system for identifying sources of variation in measurement. This is more than weighting and inspecting parts to make sure they are the right size and shape as well as checking for obvious defects. It includes checking the sensors to make sure they are reading accurately and eliminating variability in both measurements and end parts. Reducing variability in inspection ensures that you don’t accidentally reject good parts or incorrectly pass bad ones. It also leads to better quality overall, because you’re reducing the variability that causes some products to be out of spec.

The production part approval process is used to verify that a supplier meets strict quality standards. This forces suppliers to meet the same high standards as the automotive company would hold themselves to. It also ensures that they don’t ship products containing defective subassemblies. This is essential to not only the customer’s safety and satisfaction but the company’s reputation. After all, customers will blame the company whose name is on the car before they think about the supplier that may have made the defective part. For example, recalls are reported by the car manufacturer, even in cases where they named suppliers like Takata in the widespread airbag recalls. Major embarrassing recalls like this hurt sales for months.

All of this explains why businesses invest in APQP. And it is why individuals with APQP training are sought after by employers.

How do you get APQP training?

APQP training may be part of the material covered in an engineering or MBA program. However, you don’t have to go back to school to learn this content. You can take short APQP training courses. They are available through a variety of sources, such as this website here. You’ll learn how to translate customer requirements to product specifications as well as design for quality and reliability.