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Advanced Product Quality Planning?
By Doug Stohr

In my 25 years of quality experience, I have seen a lot of Quality System tools come into the world of business and manufacturing. Advanced Product Quality Planning (APQP) is not a new tool. It has been refined and somewhat embraced by the new ISO 9001:2000 standard. This system of advanced quality planning has a very comprehensive toolbox with many different tools to employ enabling companies success throughout a product's life cycle. The AIAG APQP reference manual is a solid guide to the phases and strategies needed to construct and implement the APQP system. This system covers both products and services - not just a manufactured product.


APQPDeveloped by Ford, GM and Chrysler, Advanced Product Quality Planning are guidelines designed to produce a plan that supports the development of a product or service that will satisfy the customer. This plan provides specialized tools to offer the opportunity to get ahead of problems and solve them before the problems affect the customer. The four stages of the planning cycle are Plan, Do, Study and Act. The first three stages are devoted to the up-front development and planning process through product and process validation. Lastly, Act is the implementation phase - focusing on customer satisfaction and continual improvement.


  1.   A reduction of complexity in converting customer requirements/needs to a
        finished product or service.
  2.   Improved communication throughout the product realization cycle between supplier and
        the customer with knowledge captured at each phase.
  3.   Avoidance of design and product quality problems in the earliest possible time.
  4.   Increased success on meeting target quality in all areas of the product life cycle.

I will cover what it takes to be successful with this system and briefly discuss the phases and tools used in this system.


I have found that the chief factor for successfully executing APQP is the commitment of executive management - i.e. management's recognition of the need for APQP and the understanding of the need to educate others in all aspects of the system. Without the need being successfully defined and without the value recognized, APQP is just another quality acronym. I have seen some very good APQP systems at companies fail because of a lack of understanding and commitment by top management. Deprived of endorsement and support, APQP becomes just a paper system with no chance of success. Conversely, I have seen highly successful systems work because top management was committed, even to the point of attending "phase sign-off" meetings and reviews.

The APQP system is a cross-functional system that stresses customer requirements throughout the phases. I must stress that the more facts and data you have going into APQP the better - if you need information, go get or generate it. Take the time to make decisions based on facts and sound data - no gut feelings.


Phase 1. Plan and Define the Program

  A.   Cross-functional team formed to define scope.
  B.   Define scope: define customer requirements (use Quality Function Deployment if
        applicable). Formal feasibility assessments.

Key deliverables for this phase:

  •   Identify design intent: life and quality goals
  •   Preliminary Bill of Materials (BOM)
  •   Initial process flow chart
  •   Initial critical product and process characteristics
  •   Initial product assurance plan and signed-off management support statement

Phase 2. Product/Service Design and Development

  A.   This is a thorough and robust review of engineering or service requirements along with
        all related critical technical or system information.

Key deliverables for this phase:

  •   Design/service Failure Mode Effects Analysis (FMEA)
  •   Design for successful execution of the manufacturing, assembly of service path
  •   Design/service validation
  •   Design/service revie
  •   Preliminary control plans for early prototype/service trail phase
  •   Engineering documentation and proofs
  •   Engineering/service specifications

Phase 3. Process/Service Design and Development

  A.   This phase is designed to develop a robust, high-quality manufacturing or service
        system. This phase must ensure the key and important customer needs, requirements
        and expectations are 100% satisfied.

Key deliverables for this phase:

  •   Process Failure Mode Effect Analyses (PFMEA)
  •   Product/process quality system review
  •   System layout
  •   Characteristics matrix
  •   Process/service flow chart
  •   Beta control plan prior to first run
  •   Packaging and delivery standards
  •   Process/service instructions

Phase 4. Product/Process and Service System Validation

  A.   This phase is a full evaluation and confirmation of the manufacturing/service process,
        which includes trial runs with the Quality Planning Team evaluating control plans,
        flow charts and checking that customer requirements are met throughout the system.
        This phase resolves problems prior to the first official production runs.

Key deliverables for this phase:

  •   Trial runs
  •   Initial capability analyses
  •   Measurement Systems Analysis (MSA) and validation
  •   Production Part Approval Process (PPAP)
  •   Production control plan
  •   Packaging validation: quality planning sign-off and management presentation

Phase 5. Feedback, Assessment and Improvement Action

  A.   The total quality planning system outputs and effects are reviewed for effectiveness and
        improvement. All customer requirements are reviewed and measured to confirm they
        are met (or exceeded) and documented.

Key deliverables for this phase:

  •   Reduce unwanted variation
  •   Confirm customer satisfaction or delight
  •   Delivery and service requirements have been met


The above is a brief recap of the APQP system and its phases. In reality, these phases overlap and many tasks are done in parallel to streamline and maximize resource utilization. This is an excellent business system tool for both manufacturers and service providers. APQP brings a higher level of success in starting new services and/or product offerings and is a proven methodology. This system is easily adaptable to almost any type of business.


To put it simply, Advanced Product Quality Planning is a ten-dollar, up-front solution to a one hundred-dollar compounded mistake discovered down the line. I strongly recommend to companies that are starting this system or revisiting this system that they get executive management training and orientation in APQP. The AIAG standard can be ordered by calling AIAG at 810-358-3003 or visit them online at www.aiag.org.

About the Author
Doug StohrDoug has been Quality Manager at the following companies: Bergquist Company, Taber Bushnell, Sheldahl and most recently Director of Total Quality with Clore Automotive. Some of Doug's background and qualifications include Master Black Belt in Six Sigma and Six Sigma Trainer, Implementation of TQM Programs, QS9000 Registration, Measurement Systems Analysis Trainer, Advanced Quality Planning, Continuous Improvement, Design Of Experiments, Calibration, SPC Trainer and Mechanical Inspector.

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