Advanced product quality planning (APQP) supports continuous improvement by focusing on planning, prevention, validation, and allowing organizations to communicate and provide feedback. APQP is a structured approach to standardized quality requirements enabling manufacturers to design products that satisfy customers. 

APQP in auto industryAPQP dates to the 1980s, where experts from the three major players in the automotive industry, Ford, GM, and Chrysler, came together. They aimed to develop a common understanding of the areas of mutual interests. The OEMs of all three companies and the quality division of the American Quality Control formed a Supplier Quality Requirement Task Force

The five-year analysis focused on the development and production status of Japanese, European, and USA automotive companies. They developed universal quality planning principles for all their suppliers. The guidelines established a standardized format ensuring that suppliers met customer quality requirements. 

APQP Strengths

APQP is more than setting quality management standards. It involves defined, pre-established steps addressing quality and design issues, helping save the company’s time and resources. It also aims to enhance communication between customers and suppliers for the ultimate satisfaction of the customer by the end product. 

The benefits of advanced product quality planning are plenty and far-reaching, considering that it touches all aspects of the organization, including suppliers. If well implemented, it mitigates quality issues before being transferred to customers and cause havoc. This leads to early detection and easy resolution, which also cuts costs in the long run. Some benefits of advanced product quality planning include:

Effective Communication

APQP improves communication between suppliers, consumers, and vendors. Depending on the project at hand, the level of communication and outside contractors’ involvement may vary. 

Easier Problem Resolution

APQP addresses all issues and problems arising within an organization. It uses advanced analytical techniques and problem-solving methods to address and resolve these issues, making the problem resolution easier. 

Streamlined Control Plans

Using APQP involves the documentation of procedures like prototyping, pre-launch systems, and final production. This document describes details of each phase of the project development. These control plans describe systems that see any project to its completion. 

Faster Delivery

Strategic Planning with APQPDetecting and solving problems earlier helps to avoid back-and-forth issues, leading to more rapid product development, delivery, and minimize costs.

Quicker Detection of Problems

APQP ensures that problems are detected and resolved earlier and quickly, ensuring it addresses them before blowing up and becoming unmanageable.

Easier to Monitor and Improve Processes

They document all APQP processes, making it easier for controlling and improving operations. It leads to efficient and accurate production, eliminating wastage.

Better Standards

APQP uses statistical tools and methods, helping companies deliver high product quality consistently. Companies can build stronger brands, setting them above the competition and leading to higher growth.

APQP Weaknesses

Although the goal when implementing APQP is reducing problems and improving customer satisfaction, you should be aware of some issues that may show up before starting the program.

In an article on its website, QAD CEBOS illustrates some of the obstacles and barriers to implementing APQP. Most problems may be mismanaging documents. Some other common problems include:

  • Wasted time and resources
  • Compliance risks and problems
  • Mismatched Process flows, FMEAs, and control plans
  • Slowed production
  • Extra time spent attempting to correct flow changes
  • Missed opportunities in continual improvement and early detection
  • Difficulty meeting or exceeding customer expectations and desires

Overcoming Implementation Barriers

QAD CEBOS wrote that "a clear understanding of how to effectively implement APQP, and adequate preparation for implementation, are some of the best practices for combating the potential barriers and obstacles sometimes found in APQP." They proposed that having a clear understanding of any potential obstacles is another way of avoiding potential problems. There are three recommendations they provide examples for education about APQP:

  • An understanding of the APQP Key Elements
  • A thorough understanding of the APQP Planning methods available
  • APQP software designed to fit your company’s unique needs

When to Apply Advanced Product Quality Planning

APQP helps improve communication between the suppliers and the customers. It places customer requirements and specifications into consideration, helping refine the production process. APQP is used in the following ways

When Introducing a New Product

 APQP focuses on mitigating risks early enough to avoid failure. During the product development process, the team working on the product takes action on the risk before it goes to the testing phase, which could make it costlier. This also prevents any product failure or issue from reaching the customer resulting in poor customer satisfaction and feedback.

When introducing a new product, the APQP focuses on every aspect of product design, process quality control, packaging, and service to access the risks involved. Through the use of risk-based tools, APQP uses unique processes because of factors like differences in new content, past failure in history, or changes in technology. 

During Product/Process Change

APQP goes beyond product development or modification, ensuring the change/risk is managed accordingly. This prevents any problems which could be created by the change taking place.

In Sum

Advanced product quality planning aims to create a structured plan that ensures product quality: from development to manufacturing and meeting customer requirements. 

APQP emphasizes listening to the customer to understand their needs and wants in a product, then put across plans ensuring it meets those expectations. 

Any organization wanting to gain a competitive advantage should try implementing advanced product quality planning in their business processes.