Will APQP & PPAP add real value?

Friday 19th July I had the pleasure of leading a training and  awareness session with the BSI Aerospace team. It was great to catch up with a lot of old friends, and make some new ones. We did a bit of chalk and talk on the main points of the AS9145 standard, and had a lot of great discussion and open debate about the standard, its intent, and its heightened place within the aerospace supply chain. There were lots of questions, and a lot of talk about how the supply chain were uncertain of how APQP and PPAP would help them solve delivery problems. This prompted this blog post.

We need to understand that this is nothing new. Advanced Product Quality Planning, and the Production Parts Approval Process have been around for a long time now. In fact, they developed in the 1980’s automotive industry to drive better product design, better process design, and ultimately better parts with a higher right first time ratio. I know that some of the practitioners in our industry have just raised an eyebrow. Yep! Its another high volume tool coming over to low volume, it is making a fierce impact on the aerospace supply chain driven by Airbus, Pattonair, and Rolls Royce. The big question is,  if it’s meant for high volume production runs – it cannot possible work can it?

 

How about if it can?

 

With a focus on continuously improving the processes used by the supply chain, the IAQG’s priority is to help minimise quality escapes and especially repeat escapes. The aerospace core tools shown below have been designed to support the introduction of capable processes that can deliver products on time in full, with the right quality and rates, all at the quoted price. The core tools shouldn’t be seen as a singular tool to address a requirement, but a set of tools that are interrelated to drive continual improvement. As you can see there is a link to the well known AS9102 standard, and PPAP draws its frequency and cause for change from this standard. All we need to do now is make sure that the practitioners know how to use them properly, and at the top of the core tool tree is APQP or AS9145.

 

 

APQP and PPAP are specifically designed to drive down development costs, and add discipline to New Product Introduction. This is done by gating the process into phases. Within these gates we call on the other core tools such as FMEAs and Measurement Systems Analysis.

The aerospace sector is a complex global supply chain, the industry has an insatiable appetite for new aircraft, but we need them on-time. However, even with an emphasis on better quality management systems, the backlog seems to continue to creep up. Crises in the industry such as the grounding of 737 Max is not helping such backlogs. Some of these problems are because for too long management systems have been left in the hands of capable quality teams, with many operational teams seeing them more as a hurdle to overcome, or a licence to trade, rather than a true benefit.

APQP and PPAP are lifecycle tools that will control product and process throughout the production life of the programme. Like the other core tools, and most continuous improvement tools they are meant to be owned and implemented by the very people managing the processes, and introducing the product.

PHASE 1 – PLANNING

This phase solidifies customer requirements. However, we all know that getting to the heart of what the customer wants can be difficult. Some systems, such as new engines, require input from a complex network of suppliers, airframers, primes, and sub-system integrators. All have a hand in developing requirements.

In this phase we would expect that a project plan is developed to define the project scope, key activities, and objectives for APQP. The deliverables for this stage can focus on project targets, critical items, key characteristics, the preliminary BOM, flow diagram, and sourcing routes.

PHASE 2 – PRODUCT DESIGN & DEVELOPMENT

In this phase of the planning process, design features and characteristics are developed into near-final form. This phase focuses on developing the design of the product and on ensuring feasibility – will it meet the customer’s expectations?

It is important to conduct a DFMEA at this stage to ensure that risks are captured, so that they can be mitigated or reduced during realisation.

PHASE 3 – PROCESS DESIGN & DEVELOPMENT

This phase develops a manufacturing route, and concerns ensuring that the product can be realised quickly, and as easily as possible. Importantly, related control plans are produced to achieve quality products. The focus is to create a process that will yield the design that was developed in the previous phase at the quoted quality level, quantity and cost. At the same time ensuring that any other customer requirements and expectations will be met. This is where the organization must be sure the product represents value to the customer.

In the same way that we used DFMEA in Phase 2, we use PFMEA to highlight and mitigate risks to the process, and its capability.

PHASE 4 – PRODUCT AND PROCESS VALIDATION

Phase 4 focuses on methods and techniques for determining that the designed production process is capable of meeting all the requirements that have been researched and documented throughout the previous phases.

Product and process validation are performed on components produced from the actual full-scale production route. At this stage processes are evaluated by a Production Readiness Review. The production process is run at the intended production site under production conditions using the production tooling, gauges, processes, operations, instructions, materials, personnel, and environmental conditions expected. This is to demonstrate the ability to satisfy requirements at the demand rate. Any variations are also checked, such as alternative machine tools or gauges.

Sufficient samples are produced to determine process capability and capacity, and to confirm production repeatably meets the design requirements.

PHASE 5 – ON GOING PRODUCTION, USE AND POST DELIVERY SERVICE

In this phase, variation can be studied and reduced over time.

For several decades now, the aerospace industry has chased efficiencies through lean tools reactively applied to production problems, and bottlenecks. APQP allows the application of such tools proactively, before we even release one production part. This has huge benefits, such as simplifying, and speeding up, and lowering the cost of new product development and production. It supports compliance with systems such as EASA Part 21G and AS9100. Above all it helps drive customer value, and customer satisfaction.

Let’s not forget that APQP and PPAP are lifecycle tools that will control product and process throughout the production life of the programme. Whenever a design change for the product or process occurs, the PPAP is revisited and updated to give a detailed history and a detailed method of production. In managed correctly this is always up-to-date.

If we get this right it will save us a lot of pain, heartache and money. It will drive better performance by lowering cost and increasing repeatability. It will open up capacity by reducing rework, and keep money in the bank by reducing lead-times, inventory, and poor quality.

In answer to the original question, Yes. Yes, it can work, and yes it can add real value….