Advanced Product Quality Planning
APQP is a well-established and structured approach to quality assurance in new product introduction projects. Often a requirement in the automotive industry to conform to ISO/TS16949, it can also be used in other industries.
Comprised of a set of checklists made up of yes/no questions designed to capture all quality-related topics, the aim to is reduce the risks associated with the launch of a new product. Feedback from previous projects can be utilized to take early corrective actions in the current project. Actions can easily be assigned, with a due date, to the appropriate resources for completion.
APQP acts as central monitoring of all quality deliverables such as control plans, FMEA, and problem-solving processes. The status of checklists, questions, and actions are clearly indicated and for example, a checklist can’t be completed until all questions are answered with a yes. APQP is a great help in keeping track of all critical-to-quality project activities and aids in the cost – quality – time balance.
Failure Mode and Effect Analysis
FMEA is used to identify, quantify, and reduce the risk for both product and process failures and their impact at an early stage. Like APQP, FMEA is a well-established methodology and is commonly a key part of the plan established through APQP.
The risks identified are known as failure modes and each mode can have one or more failure effects. The effects in turn can have one or more causes. Each set of failure mode, effect, and cause are evaluated and numerically estimated on the severity of the effect, occurrence, or likelihood of the cause and the detection rate of the cause. The three values are multiplied to give a Risk Priority Number (RPN). Actions need to be taken for high RPN’s to bring them to an acceptable level.
Anticipating failure modes at an early stage is important as the cost exponentially rises the later in the development process they are discovered, or even more so if they are found by the customer. Although anticipation is sometimes a bit difficult and time-consuming, the potential cost-savings and retention of high customer satisfaction are well worth it.
Control & Inspection Planning
The control plan is a core tool in APQP and is closely linked to the FMEA and provides more details on how potential issues are checked during all phases of the manufacturing process. The control plan aims to secure that the process operates within the acceptable boundaries of variation.
The inspection plan in turn derives from the design and process FMEA and focuses on how parts and processes are inspected in order to ensure parts and products are of acceptable quality for the customer. This could include inspecting that certain critical measurements are within boundaries if the part is painted or not, or that it does not have any scuffs or scratches using a variable, attributive or visual characteristics.
Control and inspection planning will help reduce scrap and rework, improve manufacturing efficiency, and prevent defective products from reaching the customer. It also ensures that product and process improvements are sustained.