Advanced Product Quality Planning (APQP)

Advanced Product Quality Planning was developed by Chrysler, Ford and General Motors and is part of the QS9000 (ISO/TS16949) standard. It is widely used in the automotive industry and is designed to develop products or services that satisfy the customer. This is achieved by up-front quality planning and disciplined execution and there are a many common elements with Design for Six Sigma (DFSS). However, APQP has been specifically written to suit the automotive industry while the tools in DFSS are more easily applied to other businesses.


APQP applies equally to products and services but for brevity the following explanation refers only to products.


The purpose of the procedure is primarily to improve the quality of first tier automotive suppliers and their subcontractors and it is very much written this way.  For example. it has a large range of forms intended to demonstrate conformance to the OEM and communicate vital information. There are, however, some OEM’s that have attained accreditation by a reinterpretation of the standard. The first such OEM was CASE Corporation’s Doncaster, UK, factory (now McCormick Tractors).


 APQP emphasises continual improvement and learning from past projects through the Plan, Do, Study, Act cycle.

Of course, this concept is not unique to the automotive industry and was first documented by Walter A. Shewhart in 1939. It then formed the backbone of Shewhart’s protégé Edward Deming’s “Continuous Improvement” philosophy and is now an integral part of the ISO9001:2000 quality standard.


APQP advocates a concurrent approach to product and service development which is illustrated by the following activity timeline.

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The phases of APQP can be summarised as follows:


Plan and Define Programme

This is arguably the most important phase of the project. If done well a lot of time and wasted effort can be saved through the effective communication of what is required to all involved.



The inputs and many of the outputs from this phase of the project can be obtained by using Quality Function Deployment (QFD) and Function Analysis. The preliminary list of special product and process characteristics is also known as Critical to Quality (CTQ) characteristics in DFSS and both the many businesses have developed symbols with which to classify characteristics on component drawings and specifications. The outputs from this phase form the inputs to the next phase.


Product Design and Development

In this phase design features and characteristics are developed into a near final form. A feasible design must permit the attainment of production volumes, and satisfy, technical, quality, reliability, investment cost, weight, unit cost, and timing objectives.


The Outputs from this phase are:


Case’s Doncaster factory was the first OEM to attain QS9000 accreditation

APQP specifies Design of Experiments as part of the verification process which is in line with the Robust Design element of Design for Six Sigma. The Prototype Control Plan is a comprehensive document which specifies dimensional, material, and functional tests that will be performed during Prototype Build. Strangely, APQP doesn’t specifically mention Value Engineering but this is an essential part of meeting unit cost targets.


The use of Reliability Growth Testing is not specifically mentioned in the standard but is widely used in the automotive industry to make sure that the testing of prototypes provides a statistically significant indication of the products reliability.


The outputs from this phase form the inputs to the next phase.


Process Design and Development

In this phase develops and implements the major features of the manufacturing system and its related control plans to achieve quality products.


The Outputs from this phase are:


Packaging Standards

Product/Process Quality System Review

Process Flow Chart

Floor Plan Layout

Characteristics matrix

Process Failure Modes and Effects Analysis

Pre-Launch Control Plans

Process Instructions

Measurement Systems Analysis Plans

Preliminary Process Capability Study Plan

Packaging Specifications

Management Support


A characteristics matrix shows the relationship between process parameters and manufacturing stations. The more manufacturing relationships there are the more important the control of the characteristic becomes. This again is a similar concept to the Critical to Quality element of Six Sigma.


The Pre-Launch control plan recognises that more controls are necessary when starting up a new process and identifies more frequent inspections and checks, statistical evaluations and audits to assure quality while the process is being validated.


The outputs from this phase form the inputs to the next phase.


Product and Process Validation

This phase validates the product and process and through the evaluation of a production trial run. The team validates that the control plan and process flow chart are being followed and that the product meets customer requirements. Since products made by the production process can vary from the initial prototypes, many businesses take a sample from the first products from the production process and subject them to functional performance and even endurance testing.


Outputs are:


Production Trial Run

Measurement Systems Evaluation

Preliminary Process Capability Study

Production Part Approval (PPAP)

Production Validation Testing

Packaging Evaluation

Production Control Plan

Quality Planning Sign-Off and Management Support


Feedback, Assessment and Corrective Action

The objective of this final phase is to reduce variation and increase customer satisfaction through the continuation of the supplier/customer relationship through problem solving and continuous improvement. It is important that the customer and supplier both listen to the Voice of the Customer.


Outputs are:


Reduced Variation

Customer Satisfaction

Delivery and Service

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Voice of The Customer

Design Goals

Business Plan/Marketing Strategy

Reliability & Quality Goals

Product/Process Benchmark data

Preliminary Bill of Materials

Product/Process Assumptions

Preliminary Process Flow Chart

Product Reliability Studies

Preliminary list of Special Product and Process Characteristics


Product Assurance Plan


Management Support

From Design Team

From Product Quality Planning Team

Design Failure Modes & Effects Analysis

New Equipment, Tooling and Facilities Requirements

Design for Manufacturability & Assembly

Special Product and Process Characteristics

Design Verification

Gauges/Testing Equipment Requirements

Design Reviews

Team Feasability Commitment and Management Support

Prototype Build - Control Plan


Engineering Drawings (including Math Data)


Engineering Specifications


Material Specifications


Drawing & Specification Changes