By Steve Reed
Complex precision parts are in fact complex. For parts to be produced flawlessly, you need a team of experienced engineers, advanced machining skills, and a fleet of the best equipment. Still, things can go wrong. That’s why when it comes to mitigating risks, the best way to avoid them is to anticipate them. And that’s where an APQP package helps us make these complicated projects less complicated.
What is APQP?
According to the American Society for Quality, Automotive Division, APQP is a structured process that includes critical tasks from concept approval through production. APQP, or Advanced Product Quality Planning Process, began in the automotive industry to assure quality and performance through planning. Ford Motor Company first published its Advanced Quality Planning handbook in the early 1980s to help its suppliers develop appropriate prevention and detection controls and to avoid catastrophe failures in production. If, for example, the assembly line came to a complete standstill because a part was not right, it could cost that plant millions of dollars.
APQP has since become a time-tested and proven approach for developing a new product under strict quality, timing, and cost requirements. What’s more, APQP ensures the Voice of the Customer (VOC) is clearly understood and built into the requirements and technical specifications of production. Having a clear understanding of what your customer wants, needs, and expects and planning accordingly ensures customer satisfaction.
Why we implemented APQP at RS Precision
RS Precision is committed to producing high-quality, mission-critical complex parts that meet AS9100 and ISO 9001 standards. In our quest to continually improve and update our processes and quality-centric infrastructure through best-in-class, rigorous procedures based on lean manufacturing and Six Sigma practices, we’ve added APQP to our quality control assessments.
Imagine producing a part five years ago and making changes along the way. An APQP package tells the story of the manufacturing history of the part. Those changes are now documented into an APQP package, so you now have a history of what has been done that worked and can build off of those records.
At RS Precision, our APQP plan consists of Process Design and Development, Validation of Product and Process, and Production Launch, Assessment, and Improvement. As part of the Process Design and Development phase, we first produce a Process flow diagram, which is a brief overview of what we’re going to do with the parts, at every station. We use this flow diagram as our roadmap, and drill down further by analyzing risks, the severity of what can go wrong, how often we think this might occur during production, and how easy it would be to fix. Examples include: what’s the likelihood we will grind a part out of tolerance? What if a tool breaks down? As we assess every possible risk, we also gauge the severity on a scale of 1 to 10, then calculate the risk number. Higher risk numbers tell us we need to go back and find ways to mitigate the potential problem.
Passing the benefits of APQP on to you
Regardless of what industry we serve, our customers want their parts done correctly and on time. With APQP, we can produce parts more quickly and efficiently, protect against failure, develop even more efficient inspection strategies, gain client implement methods to control processes, solve problems, reduce or even eliminate variances, and let the past dictate how we can improve upon future products.
APQP still needs time to gain momentum, however, I believe we are heading towards it becoming mandatory, especially in the aerospace and defense markets. And while some of our customers have mandated APQP with their purchase orders, we’re voluntarily rolling it out to add to our production transparency, visibility, and added value to you.
Steve Reed, Quality Manager
Steve rose through the ranks at RS Precision having started his 13+ year machining career here in 2007 as a CNC milling, wire EDM, and CNC lathe Operator. He also was wire EDM Leadman, while supervising other operators. He then moved to process methodology and the programming of CMM and video inspection equipment. Today, as RS Precision’s Quality Manager, Steve utilizes state-of-the-art measuring equipment to ensure the exacting specifications of each manufactured part. He attended Nassau Community College in Long Island, New York.