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Core tools – why they are so important?


Qualitywise.pl, Agata Lewkowska, core tools

Organizations in the automotive supply chain are required to certify their quality QMS for compliance with the requirements of IATF 16949. Of course, the standard itself is not the only requirement that should be implemented in the organization. Next to it there are customer specific requirements, the so-called CSR, and core tools – in fact also required by CSR.

Core tools – what is it all about?

Core tools are the tools in the automotive industry that exists since the 1990s. They are the key elements of an effective quality management system that meets the needs and expectations of customers.

Many automotive OEMs and their suppliers require IATF 16949 core tools. These tools have also been successfully implemented in other industries such as aerospace / defense – AS 9100, medicine – ISO 13845, telecommunications – TL 9000 etc.

Core tools include:

Advanced Product Quality Planning and Control (APQP),

Part Approval Process (PPAP),

Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA),

Statistical Process Control (SPC),

Measurement System Analysis (MSA).

I would like to point out straight away that the above-mentioned key quality methods relate 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 a brief description of each of the methods. 

APQP – Advanced Product Quality Planning

Advanced Product Quality Planning (APQP) is used for project management to reduce the complexity of product quality planning for customers and suppliers. The aim is to meet performance, schedule and cost requirements.

APQP determines the required input and output data at each stage of the product development process in five phases:

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

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.

The manual describing this method has been functioning unchanged since July 2008. Unfortunately, this affects the current “state of the art”. Examples: in the field of cybersecurity, which we will not find in this manual.

VDA Maturity Level Assurance for New Parts

VDA “Ensuring the level of maturity” is a guideline for companies from the automotive industry in the field of new launches, improvement of product quality from 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. Using 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. They 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. 

FMEA – Failure Mode and Effect Analysis

This manual is copyrighted by AIAG and VDA because of their collaboration to combine the American and German approaches. 2019 release valid.

The new AIAG and VDA Handbook was developed by a global team of OEM subject matter experts and Tier 1 suppliers. Design / Process / MSR FMEA is an analytical system and function analysis methodology for both product and process. The manual does not define the requirements. It only explains the steps, procedures, tools necessary for the technical creation of an FMEA.

What are its most essential elements?

  • new 7-step approach to FMEA development,
  • significantly revised Severity, Occurrence and Detection (SOD) tables,
  • new methodology for Action Priorities (AP) and Tables identifying Risk priorities as High, Medium, Low,
  • resignation from RPN = risk priority number.

The most significant changes from the fourth edition of the AIAG FMEA Handbook and the VDA Volume 4 are listed in Appendix F.

MSA – Measurement Systems Analysis

It includes data collection, analysis and providing reliable information. Measurement Systems Analysis (MSA) is key to determining what variation is present in the product. Alsoit is about how much variation is due to the measurement system. Placing controls and making improvements to equipment and operators will reduce uncertainty (i.e. measurement error) and increase confidence in making firm decisions about process and product quality.

VDA 5 – Measurement and Inspection Processes

VDA 5 deals with the suitability of measurement and control processes. The German approach is not only about monitoring and measuring equipment. It is about all necessary resources, from spatial conditions, through appropriately trained personnel, appropriate control measures, measuring equipment including software, to the necessary aids and methods that have an impact on obtaining important and reliable monitoring and measurement results. All this must correspond to the purpose of the compliance of products and services. It must be ensured that the customer is provided only with the guaranteed quality.

We can find here, among others:

  • Harmonization strategies with the AIAG Core Tool MSA (fourth edition),
  • Recommendations for procurement of measurement systems (e.g., terms of reference),
  • Dealing with small tolerances,
  • Procedure in the case of an insufficient sample size in tests of the “measurement system” and “measurement process”,
  • Handling of small series in pre-series production and production batches in development and production,
  • Consideration and evaluation of the current suitability through stability measurements,
  • Methods of calculating the measurement uncertainty.

 SPC – Statistical Process Control

Statistical process control (SPC) was first implemented by manufacturers in the 1930s to monitor and analyze the process. The aim was to determine if it is under control. Also, to determine the source of variability. I.e. the variability due to a special cause (i.e. abnormal behavior) or a common cause (inherent behavior caused by the system).

By identifying and eliminating sources of variation with special causes, the process will have predictable performance. It will be able to determine the capability of the process as expressed by appropriate indicators to meet the requirements.

VDA 4 – Quality Assurance in the Process Landscape. Sections 1-4.

In German approach, this method has been divided into:

Section 1: General Requirements

Method review, basic aids, development processes

Section 2: Risk Analysis

Failure Tree Analysis (FTA), Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA), SWOT Analysis (Strengths – Weaknesses – Opportunities – Threats)

Section 3: Methods

Design for Manufacturing and Assembly Processes (DFMA), Digitally Aided Design (DMU) Model, Experiment Design (DoE) – Test Method, Manufacturing Feasibility Analysis, POKA YOKE, QFD Method, TRIZ, Economical Process Design and Process Control, 8D Method, 5Why method (5x why), selection of preventive quality management methods

Section 4: Process models

Six Sigma, designing for Six Sigma (DFSS), tolerating industrial processes.

PPAP – The Production Part Approval

The Production Part Approval (PPAP) process is designed to ensure that the requirements have been met with objective evidence to obtain approval for production and approval of significant changes / modifications. Applying this process between customer and suppliers you can expect some benefits. APQP reduces delays, non-conformities, other issues during part approval, and ensures that high-quality parts can be consistently delivered on time and within cost constraints.

VDA 2, Securing the Quality of Supplies Production process and product approval

VDA 2 “Supply Quality Assurance” describes the procedure for approving the production process and the product. It constitutes an agreement on the PPA procedure to emphasize the agreements between the organization and the client regarding the scope, content, and timing of the PPA procedure. This method confirms the qualitative ability of the processes under the conditions of serial production. Additionally, it confirms the compliance of the products with the use of appropriate documents, records, and samples.

By abolishing submission levels, individual customer expectations, product variety and the considerable number of documents are considered. The German approach defines six areas for which, as agreed with the client, appropriate evidence should be prepared.

Why are core tools so important?

 I will answer this question in several points:

  • key quality methods are considered standard throughout the automotive industry,
  • they are audit criteria during audits,
  • they are an essential element of the competence of persons performing the functions of quality management system auditors, also defined in the IATF 16949 standard (this applies to both the competences of the internal auditor and the second party auditor),
  • are used throughout the product life cycle, from development to production and delivery,
  • are the basic components of a quality management system that consistently produces the right products on time,
  • facilitate communication between suppliers and customers by ensuring a common language and process for designing and manufacturing products.

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Thank you for your presence.

Agata Lewkowska Ph.D.

PS. If I can help you with quality management issues, please contact me. You may also join me in my private group on Facebook: ISO 9001 & IATF 16949 QualityWise Group.

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One Comment

  1. Roger Graves says:

    Another great article Agata. Thank you.

Comments are closed.