Manufacturing is the cornerstone of global business. In this day and age, we seem to be enamored with the marketing and online processes of so many businesses. That’s what business is for the newcomers. Everybody wants to virally market everything. But when it comes down to it, at the end of the day, things need to be made. This is when the big guns come out. Manufacturing and creating products is a complicated and often arduous process that involves multiple individuals, cooperating parties, and solid supply chains. But how does it all work together? How does one know that they are creating the proper interpretation of a design? More often than not, these teams are spread out. In order to adequately and accurately make sure that everything is on the right track, a constant follow up and approval is needed. Fortunately for us, we don’t have to do it the old way. We have APQP and PPAP software to help carry us through to the next step.
APQP, or Advanced Product Quality Planning, is used to make sure that everything is squared away on all fronts before a product is made. This is used in conjunction with a PPAP software on the supplier side. This helps answer a few basic questions from the get-go. For one, it offers a two way street between the people designing the product and the people actually building it. An APQP software can take an industrial designer’s work and specifications, break it down to its fundamental parts, and then itemize it for production. This puts the responsibility in the hands of the designer in order to cooperate with the production and comply with the standards necessary to get the product built. With a set standard to abide by, the two parties don’t have to try to read each other’s minds. The dimensions, colors, parts, and molds can all be agreed upon quickly and without a doubt.
A mass-produced chair is not so much a chair as it is a specific sequence of pegs, cushions, bolts, and wooden legs. That’s how APQP helps. It lays out all the individual parts to be produced, with approval from the designer, so we can get it right the first time. There are so much time and money lost in production due to a lack of communication with the designer. More often than not, they’re just saying “get it done” without having to take the time to set specifications. With the APQP, they have to abide by the standards in order to get a finished product. On the flip side, the APQP sets up benchmarks before proceeding in order to make sure that the product is on the right track. Going back to the chair analogy, the set details on the legs and the backrest can be approved in an itemized fashion before moving any further.
The PPAP, or Production Part Approval Process, is similar to an APQP but geared specifically to suppliers. When a manufacturer is creating a product, it has to source materials from all around the world—wherever they can get the best deal. If they’re an assembly operation, the modular pieces must be created to the specifications set. With the production part approval process, one can have a set of automated documentation benchmarks. The first is often the agreement. Can the supplier make the piece or not? The second is the approval of dimensions and weight. The third is a thorough report on the production process and what it entails. Next is a complete piece that can be reviewed and amended if necessary. The last part is often guidelines on how to proceed with mass production. With these guideposts set up, one can rest assured that they’re doing the correct thing.
All of this is done not only to get a proper end product but to provide the proper documentation for fixing or improving on the product. If anything goes wrong, all those steps can be laid out and analyzed one by one. It isolates the problem and makes it easier to come up with a fix. Once a fix is found, one can project down the line how it would change the process until the proper outcome is achieved. It can also help someone take the product and see where an improvement can lead further down the line.
The power of implementing an APQP and PPAP cannot be stressed enough. Not only is this going to be the new gold standard for your company, but it can also be accessed and reviewed anytime, anywhere. There’s so much waste in manufacturing that spells losses for you and your company. Why not plug the holes?
Samantha Acuna is a writer based in San Francisco, CA. Her work has been featured in The Huffington Post, Entrepreneur.com, and Yahoo Small Business.