APQP - project management in the automotive industry

Organizations in the automotive supply chain are required to certify their quality management system for compliance with the requirements of IATF 16949. Of course, you should be aware that the standard itself is not the only requirement that should be implemented in the organization. Next to it there are core tools among which you can find APQP.


Core tools - what is it about?

Core tools are key elements of an effective quality management system that meets the needs and expectations of customers.

These include: Advanced Product Quality Planning and Control (APQP), Part Approval Process (PPAP), Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA), Statistical Process Control (SPC), and Measurement System Analysis (MSA).

I would like to point out that the above-mentioned core tools are related to the American approach. These are the so-called Blue books published by AIAG

But the American approach is not the only one! We also have a German approach. And here we will talk about the key quality methods issued by VDA-QMC

Let’s move on to APQP.


APQP - Advanced Product Quality Planning

Within the requirements of the IATF 16949: 2016 standard, there are requirements for design and development planning. In section, we have project management as an example of applying an interdisciplinary approach to design and development. In the automotive industry, the most common approaches are APQP or VDA MLA (German VDA RGA), with customer requirements deciding which to use.

Thus, Advanced Product Quality Planning (APQP) is used for project management in the automotive industry. It provides general guidance on the preparation of plans and checklists to ensure that “advanced product quality is actually planned” by the supplier. Its goal is to reduce the complexity of product quality planning for customers and suppliers to meet performance, schedule and cost requirements. However, it does not provide detailed instructions on how to approach each APQP project.

Some of the benefits in using this method are:

  • reduction of the complexity of product quality planning for customers and suppliers,
  • support for suppliers to easily inform sub-suppliers about product quality planning requirements.


APQP vs. project management principles

Each project, regardless of the industry, has certain attributes. We will also find them in APQP and they will even determine the success of the entire project. Therefore, we will start the organization of tasks in APQP by planning the project, the scope of which includes:

  • defining the schedule – setting time frames and milestones,
  • team – who will be the owner of the project, do we have the necessary competences in the team, do we need to involve the client and suppliers,
  • scope of the project – who will be our client, do we know the requirements, do we know our costs / limitations,
  • establishing the method of communication – who, with whom, on what topic.

After planning the project, APQP determines the required inputs and outputs at each stage of the product quality planning process in the following phases:

  • product design,
  • process design,
  • product and process validation,
  • production and feedback.


APQP- project phases
Fig 1. APQP phases

Of course, each of these phases contains detailed guidelines for carrying them out, which you will learn about during the APQP training which Qualitywise is happy to conduct for your organization.

In APQP there is also a chapter dedicated to the control plan. The control plans summarize the identified process and product parameters required to maintain process control and product compliance.

Advanced Product Quality Planning is a method that identifies and establishes the steps needed to ensure that a product satisfies the customer. The purpose of product quality planning is to enable communication with all stakeholders involved in the project to ensure that all required steps are completed on time. It should also not be forgotten that effective product quality planning depends on the commitment of top management to the effort required to achieve customer satisfaction.

The manual describing this method has been functioning unchanged since July 2008. Unfortunately, this translates into the current “state of the art.” e.g. in the field of cybersecurity, which we will not find in this manual. This is undoubtedly a weakness of the APQP method. Therefore everyone waits for APQP manual update in 2024.


VDA MLA - New Parts Maturity Level Assurance

The equivalent of APQP is VDA “Maturity Level Assurance” in short called VDA MLA (Maturity Level Assurance) or VDA RGA (German Reifegrad Absicherung). It provides guidelines for companies from the automotive industry in the field of new launches, improvement of product quality at the very beginning of cooperation with the customer for all parts, components and systems in the supply chain. It is a comprehensive presentation of phases in a project called “maturity levels”. Within each level, we have an objective assessment of the maturity of the product and the production process by the contractor and the recipient of the action. Through the use of a structured method, projects are monitored, assessed and improved. The requirements of the VDA MLA manual describe the approach to cooperation between the customer and suppliers in the supply chain. The requirements are specified in the form of maturity levels from PD0 to PD7.

The absolute advantage of this method is risk classification and communication in the supply chain between the interested parties, i.e. the customer-supplier.


Pay attention to the customers specific requirements, in which we can find information on the method of project management in the automotive industry.


Get your own template with mandatory elements required in APQP phases

Especially for you we collected the list of mandatory elements required in APQP phases. You may download it below.

APQP training

We also invite you to the training organized by Qualitywise, where you will learn in detail the requirements of the APQP manual. A detailed description of the training is here. Ask about the next date.

Szkolenia zarządzanie jakością, Qualitywise.pl

Hope you found the article interesting.

Thank you for your presence.

Agata Lewkowska Ph.D.

PS. If Qualitywise can help you with quality management trainings, consulting and audit of your QMS, please contact us. You may also join me in my private group on Facebook: ISO 9001 & IATF 16949 QualityWise Group.


For people who want to know more:

IATF 16949: 2016 Requirements for quality management systems in serial production and the production of spare parts in the automotive industry, 1st edition, 2016

VDA Maturity Level Assurance for New Parts, 3rd issue, 2022

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