ISO 9000 and the 5 Phases of APQP: The Nuts and Bolts
What does APQP entail?
According to ASQ Automotive Division, APQP is a “structured process that includes critical tasks from concept approval through production.” The aim is to create a product quality plan for developing and manufacturing products that meet customer requirements. This planning, according to APQP standards, uses a five-phase process that includes:
- Product Planning and Quality Program Definition
- Product Design and Development
- Process Design and Development
- Validation of Product and Process
- Production Launch, Assessment, and Improvement
Let’s examine each of these phases in more detail.
APQP Phase 1: Planning and Program Definition
When customer demands require the introduction of a new product or overhaul of an existing one, preliminary planning becomes front and center, even before discussions of product design or redesign. In this APQP phase, planning is directed at understanding customer needs and product expectations.
Planning activities include gathering necessary data to define what the customer wants and using the information to hash out product characteristics. Then, the quality program needed to create the product as specified can be defined. The output of this work includes product design, reliability, and quality goals.
APQP Phase 2: Product Design and Development
Completing product design is the focus of this phase. This is also where a product feasibility assessment comes into play. Resulting outcomes from work in this phase include:
- Completed design review and verification
- Defined material specifications and equipment requirements
- Completed design failure mode and effect analysis to assess failure probabilities
- Established control plans for product prototype creation
APQP Phase 3: Designing and Developing the Process for Product Manufacture
This phase focuses on planning the manufacturing process that will produce the new or improved product. The goal is to design and develop the production process with product specifications, product quality, and production costs in mind. The process must be able to produce expected quantities to keep up with consumer demands while operating efficiently. Examples of outcomes in this phase include:
- A completed process flow configuration
- A completed process failure mode and effect analysis to identify and deal with risks
- Operational process quality specifications
- Product finishing and packaging requirements
APQP Phase 4: Validating the Process and the Product
This is the test phase for validating the manufacturing process and the final product. The end results of this phase include confirming capability and reliability of the manufacturing process and product quality acceptance criteria. Trial production runs are made, and product output is tested to confirm the effectiveness of the deployed manufacturing approach. Any needed adjustments are reconciled before moving to the next phase.
APQP Phase 5: Launch, Assessments, and Continual Improvement
The full-scale production launch occurs in this phase with emphasis on evaluating and improving processes. Activities such as reducing process variations, identifying issues, and starting corrective actions to support continual improvement are mainstays in this phase. Collecting and assessing customer feedback and collecting data related to process efficiency and quality planning effectiveness is important in this phase. Typical outcomes include:
- An improved manufacturing process through reduction in process variations
- Improved quality of product delivery and customer service
- Improved customer satisfaction
APQP provides a structure for planning, defining, and completing necessary activities to produce products that are on target for customer needs and expectations. The program requires the use of standard quality tools such as FMEA, SPC, PPAP, and comprehensive controls plans for effectiveness. For manufacturers, the incentive for using an APQP is the potential to achieve a successful product launch where product and process risks are minimized, and competitiveness is improved.