As ISO/TS 16949 moves toward becoming the newest standard in the automotive arena, Advanced Product Quality Planning (APQP) and Production Parts Approval Process (PPAP) and their applications--which were born out of U.S. initiatives--will undoubtedly reflect the changes brought by the new international standard. The impact of ISO/TS 16949 on the U.S. automotive industry will be felt all the way from the supply chain to the automotive assembly lines.

Historically, the automotive industry has asked suppliers to plan for the design, development and manufacture of products to be used in producing cars and trucks and, at the same time, to meet any number of quality-related issues. Between 1964 and 1994, each of the four U.S. OEMs--American Motors, Chrysler, Ford and General Motors--required unique processes for suppliers to plan production and submit samples of future parts prior to the start of a new assembly process.

By the early 1990s, the burden imposed by what then had become the Big Three was continuously growing. At an American Society for Quality (ASQ) Automotive Division meeting in the early 1990s, executives from a number of suppliers challenged the OEMs to devise a method to reduce the paperwork burden on the supply base. The executives of the OEMs opened the floor to a brain-storming session and devised a plan for a set of common quality-related standards that laid the initial groundwork for QS-9000. This, in turn, gave importance to PPAP and began the development process for APQP.

A task force was commissioned to develop a set of common standards and continue the work already started. One key element of the APQP development effort was to get cross-functional teams involved; thus, suppliers would be invited to join the development teams. The Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG) was chosen to be the central coordinator for the quality effort, since it had already been established by the OEMs to work on other initiatives and to give U.S. automakers a platform to hold discussions that would be free from government concerns of collusion.

With the help of the AIAG and the ASQ, the task force--today known as the DaimlerChrysler, Ford Motor Co., General Motors Supplier Quality Requirements Task Force (SQRTF)--started work on several procedures and a new quality standard to work out the approach to be used to develop the common processes. The result was the QS-9000 standard that is required by all three of the OEMs and the eight truck manufacturers, plus the series of supporting manuals on related topics. This group of manuals is known collectively as the "QS 7 Pack." The common procedures are summarized in the table, "QS 7 Pack."

With the release of QS-9000, automotive manufacturing suppliers were finally was able to begin harmonizing their internal structures around a single quality system.

What are APQP and PPAP?
QS-9000 indicated that the QS 7 Pack should be used within a company's quality system. Two manuals received particular attention: APQP and PPAP. Looking at PPAP first, QS-9000 4.2.4 Product Approval Process, General states: "The supplier shall fully comply with all requirements set forth in the Production Part Approval Process manual." The term "shall" requires use of the manual, and the next subclause states that suppliers should use a part approval process as the PPAP for their subcontractors.

The PPAP foreword states: "In the past, Chrysler, Ford and General Motors each had their own procedures for reviewing supplier submissions of production parts for customer approval (initial samples). Differences between these three processes resulted in additional demands on supplier resources. To improve upon this situation, Chrysler, Ford and General Motors agreed to develop, and, through AIAG, distribute this procedure.

"While this procedure is intended to cover all situations normally occurring during the sample submission process, there will be questions that arise during this process. These questions should be directed to your customer's part approval activities."

Now in its third edition (effective Feb. 1, 2000), the PPAP requirement includes language to:

  • Allow for third-party auditors to better understand the processes
  • Provide better alignment with typical process flows
  • Revise the "initial process studies" process to better align with the SPC manual
  • Clarify when PPAP submissions are required
  • Incorporate sanctioned interpretations of previous editions
  • Add U.S. truck OEM-specific language
  • Add requirements for bulk material suppliers
  • Add a tire industry-specific appendix
  • Enhance the glossary of terms.

The AIAG training program states that PPAP "defines generic requirements for production part approval, including production and bulk materials. The purpose of PPAP is to determine if all customer engineering design record and specification requirements are correctly understood by the supplier and that the process has the potential to produce product consistently meeting these requirements during an actual production run at the quoted production rate."

Link to QS-9000
QS-9000 contains nine references to APQP--five "shalls" and four "shoulds"--which includes both Advanced Quality Planning (AQP) and the need for control plans. QS-9000, paragraph Organizational Interfaces, states: "The supplier shall have systems in place to ensure management of appropriate activities during concept development through production (refer to the Advanced Product Quality Planning and Control Plan reference manual)."

Again in QS-9000, paragraph Advanced Product Quality Planning, the standard states: "The supplier shall establish and implement an advanced product quality planning process." Thus, the APQP was the second of the two manuals to be mandated by QS-9000. The other manuals were specifically referred to as reference manuals.

The APQP foreword states: "This manual provides general guidelines for preparing plans and checklists for ensuring that Advanced Product Quality Planning is in actuality carried out at the supplier. It does not give specific instructions on how to arrive at each APQP or control plan entry, a task best left to each component review team.

"While these guidelines are intended to cover all situations normally occurring either in the early planning, design phase or process analysis, there will be questions that arise. These questions should be directed to your customer's supplier quality activity."

The main reason the reference manual design team added the word "product" to the old AQP process was to try to get the quality engineers out of the lead for the process and emphasize product design engineering's responsibility for product quality. This goal has not always been realized, however, since many organizations still mistakenly default anything with the word "quality" back to the quality department.

APQP phases
The APQP process includes five basic phases:

  • Plan and Define Program
  • Product Design and Development
  • Process Design and Development
  • Product and Process Validation
  • Feedback Corrective Action.

The product quality planning phases are made up of tools, procedures and reporting requirements specific for each phase of the design phase of a new part. Each phase can be expanded or contracted to fit the desired outcome, and the boundaries are defined to ensure that the outputs of each phase become the inputs of the next phase.

Moreover, each phase re-emphasizes the need for management support. The APQP manual design team wanted to ensure that supplier personnel would have the resources to complete the tasks needed to satisfy their customers. The control plan section of the manual describes the process of monitoring production after launch.

Both the PPAP and APQP manuals are required documents for the U.S. automotive industry and are being used throughout the supplier base at all levels. With the formation of DaimlerChrysler, U.S. OEMs started looking at the international scene and, with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), began working on an international automotive sector-specific quality management system (QMS). This standard became known as ISO/TS 16949, and the U.S. group replacing the SQRTF for the new effort is the International Automotive Task Force (IATF). The current versions of both QS-9000 and ISO/TS 16949: 1999 were developed on the base of ISO 9001: 1994.Now that ISO 9001: 2000 is available and, given the varied influences around the world--including the Deming Prize in Japan, the Baldrige Award in the United States and the European Quality Award--it is interesting to review how the international standard has evolved since 1987.

The new ISO 9001 calls for a focus on continual improvement (part of APQP), a satisfaction of customer requirements (part of PPAP), and the need for a preventive action process (part of control plans) and to communicate with suppliers and customers to ensure quality (part of APQP).

Incoming ISO/TS 16949
The IATF has been working with the ISO community on updating ISO/TS 16949 to align it with ISO 9001: 2000. The expectation is that, sometime in 2002, the new ISO/TS 16949 will be released for use by automotive suppliers around the world. How APQP, PPAP and the other AIAG reference manuals will figure into the new ISO/TS 16949 is still not clear, although Ford has just announced in its new Q1-2002 program that its suppliers must be registered to either QS-9000 or ISO/TS 16949 and to ISO 14001. However, QS-9000 and its companion, QSA, will eventually become obsolete, which means that the other five manuals will need to find a new platform from which to work. With the AIAG or IATF being the focal points for a number of standardization documents in the automotive industry, it is plausible that the five reference manuals will still be in widespread use as contractual requirements.

APQP and PPAP principles are needed to ensure that an organization's marketing brand image stays ahead of its competition. They are the foundation for any continual improvement effort to achieve faster, better and cheaper cycles for the organization. APQP and PPAP were originally designed for manufacturing organizations and cover the basic foundations of what every company needs to strive for in customer satisfaction.