Quality excellence comes as standard – if you approach it properly

Andrea Goddard, senior consultant at SMMT Industry Forum
Andrea Goddard, senior consultant at SMMT Industry Forum

What stops suppliers and OEMs from fully embedding proven aerospace quality standards and reaping the rewards? If you’ve operated on both sides of the corporate fence then you start to see common traps and pitfalls. Andrea Goddard, senior consultant at leading training provider, SMMT Industry Forum reports.

I doubt there are many people working within aerospace manufacturing who would argue against the importance and relevance of AS9145 - requirements for Advanced Product Quality Planning (APQP) and Production Part Approval Process.

Yet, I have seen a host of repeat issues regarding the APQP/PPAP process and interestingly they’re neither commodity nor sector dependant. 

Having worked at Rolls-Royce in a Manufacturing Engineering capacity for 12 years, I know Rolls-Royce is proactive and have been a significant driving factor in the advancement and development of aerospace quality standards – but others don’t necessarily share their thorough approach.

Get with the plan

Whilst conducting many PPAP reviews I can quite often see that the creation of the documents was an afterthought. The philosophy of APQP & PPAP is the documents must be created during the APQP process, and not a case of let’s create them quickly in order to submit to the customer.

If APQP is done correctly then you have a plan driven by the knowledge of a cross-functional team, which allows you to deliver all the required deliverables – after all, it’s a process that ensures that you’re doing the right things (DFMEA, PFMEA, MSA, etc) at the right time, with the right people and for the right reasons.

If APQP has not been planned appropriately then tell-tale signs start to appear within the PPAP submission, so be sure to understand the timeline behind the documents.  A good example is when the Control Plan is created prior to the PFMEA, because when I see this type of issue it leads me to question whether the supplier has undertaken an effective APQP programme or just created a PPAP as a tick box exercise.

Chapter and verse

The PPAP submission is like a story; in essence you are telling the story of the creation or modification of this part and or process that makes it. All the bits of information need to tie up and tell the same story.

For example, if the drawing has a dimension and it’s measured with a height gauge; when I review element 6 within the PPAP submission – Measurement System Analysis (MSA) - I would expect to see a MSA study for the height gauge measurement system. 

What I have seen a number of times within the submission is a data dump of all the MSA’s the supplier has undertaken. Then as a reviewer, I have to work out which are relevant or not.

In one instance a height gauge was used as part of the production method of inspection, but the MSA study included in the submission was for a shadowgraph. On closer examination of the relevant documents it was determined that a shadow graph was not utilised within the production inspection strategy. Remember, it all has to tell the same story.

Got a problem? Know how to fix it

If the PPAP file is not complete or contains discrepancies when making the submission, include an action plan detailing how it will be completed/corrected. The submission warrant in AS9145, also called the Production Part Approval Process Approval Form, contains the following statement: I, the supplier, submit this PPAP Approval form as declaration of having met all applicable requirements of the 9145 standard, except as noted…..

What this means is that, as a supplier, you are aware of issues or non-compliance with your submission and have a closing action plan which is resourced with completion dates. The approach I have seen all too often is the supplier submits their PPAP pack and waits for the customer/approval authority to list and report the issues found.  

Often the supplier only acts on the issues highlighted by the customer/approval authority, and this is clear evidence they’re not accepting responsibility for any parts they have designed, plus the associated manufacturing process developed.  The supplier is best placed to know what issues and risks they carry, and as such what they going to do to resolve them. The onus is on the supplier to identify all issues and to create an appropriate resourced closing action plan.

Additionally, if the customer/approval authority signs off the PPAP submission with discrepancies within it, that on its own does not resolve the issues. The customer’s signature on the approval form does not make the submission contents right - the corrective action plan does!

Submit on time, every time

Consider the following scenario: A submission date has been given to the supplier by the customer’s project management team at the start of the programme of work, and this date has been agreed by all the parties involved.  The agreed date is now fast approaching, but the supplier knows they will not have everything done on time.

So, the supplier decides not to submit on the agreed date, but carries on undertaking all the required actions to submit a fully complete and acceptable submission – yet the customer is expecting it on an earlier and agreed date.

Imagine you are the project team manager responsible for a completely new engine and all the thousands of parts that require PPAP. You have to fully understand and be aware of the status of each of these many parts, so if the supplier doesn’t submit on time you don’t know if they have a serious problem or not - and it has a knock on, cumulative effect.

The expectation – and quite rightly so - is that the supplier submits on time, so there’s a universal stake in the ground and everyone (your company and your customer) knows how the project is progressing. 

I have long used the tools and techniques associated with APQP and PPAP in both the automotive and aerospace industries - tackling all sorts and levels of associated challenges to make them work and add value – and you can too if you follow the proven process and drive the project in line with APQP methodology. 




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