Peter Byrom and Philip Potkowski share key findings of their analysis of APQP implementation in automotive and aerospace
APQP is meant to change product development in the aerospace industry for good. What is the essence of the approach?
Peter Byrom: If there were a motto for Advanced Product Quality Planning, it would probably be ‘measure twice, cut once.’ Pay attention to the details from the start and prevent mistakes instead of curing them.
That sounds like the opposite of widespread agile methods. In which contexts does APQP make the most sense?
Philip Potkowski: APQP is a very structured approach which enforces earlier design and process maturity and stability. It can make sense in industries with complex products, with many requirements and stakeholders. We have worked with customers on the OEM and the supplier side of the automotive industry where it has been established for many years with its deep-seated supply chain.
How about cases in the aerospace industry?
Philip Potkowski: Implementation in aerospace has been ramping up in the past couple of years. The new AS9145 standard was established in 2016 by the IAQG (International Aerospace Quality Group). We see a lot of interest from all major players, for a simple reason: you just cannot afford quality problems in the aerospace industry. And there are two key reasons for that: passenger safety, and the high level of regulation.
What can AI and machine learning add to APQP
Peter Byrom: A core aspect of APQP is managing risk. Right now, you can implement software that tracks warranty issues or defects in real time, which is already extremely beneficial. But we can also use this data to predict problems in the future, leveraging machine learning technology. To see, for example, if a certain component or a combination of components might lead to failures. A great client benefit is that umlaut is a part of Accenture Industry X. This network brings the whole technology stack necessary for automation, digitization and cloud services as well as advanced machine learning.
You benchmarked the APQP implementation in several automotive and aerospace companies. What are the key factors for success, apart from the software component?
Philip Potkowski: Most important from our perspective is management buy-in because you need the whole organization on board. The next important issue is clear responsibilities. The whole process is fairly detailed out, but you have to make sure everybody knows his/her job. To properly implement APQP, you need an OCM strategy. Employees need to understand the approach and time to adopt the changes. It is a long-term effort, a change in culture and mindset, which requires a lot of communication.
Peter Byrom: We also found that suppliers were not properly integrated. Suppliers have to be on board – they are critical to the success of the process. Their input is key, particularly for reporting on quality, production outputs or other KPIs. Lastly, especially in the aerospace industry, there is still a lack of APQP experts able to drive the transformation process. But we see a transfer happening from the automotive sector right now.
With proper implementation, what are the benefits you found?
Philip Potkowski: The promise is shorter product development lead times and less budget overrun, due to having a clear process and less re-work. Especially for aerospace, we think that increased quality is actually the main benefit, namely consistent quality standards across divisions and in the supply chain. This can lead to a lower number of defects and re-qualifications, which is especially important because of strict regulations and high certification standards.
Peter Byrom: APQP with the addition of Accenture’s predictive technologies, will allow us to take this process to a new level. And it is exciting to be a part of this development.