Production Part Approval Process Provides Evidence of Laser Precision Quality

Production Part Approval Process Provides Evidence of Laser Precision Quality

How do OEMs know a fabrication shop can deliver a new part or prototype and get it right the first time? That was the question on the minds of the three largest North American automotive manufacturers (Ford, General Motors and Chrysler) back in 1982. To find the answer, they founded the Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG), which developed a common Production Part Approval Process (PPAP).

The PPAP document is a supplier’s manufacturing plan for a specific part, providing evidence that they will be able to successfully produce the part with the processes and controls they currently have in place. This written assurance has become so effective at reducing unacceptable parts that major OEMs today require a PPAP before they will do business with a vendor.

At Laser Precision, we’ve created thousands of PPAPs over the years, and we’ve seen the evidence pile up in that time: a solid PPAP regularly saves time, money and headaches down the road.

We asked Matt Keller, Quality Manager at Laser Precision, to tell us more about the PPAP and how the company leverages the data obtained from its creation to improve overall performance and productivity. Laser Precision uses a standard PPAP template, which typically ends up being a 40-page document when all the evidence is included. Matt and his team average over 100 PPAPs per month.

The Roadmap

“Since we do a lot of small runs with a high variety of parts at Laser Precision, the PPAP is an important part of our operation,” Matt said. “It guides us through a dialog with our customers and confirms approval of production designs and processes before, during and after manufacture. This includes discussing every single customer requirement, feedback on how we are doing and ways we can improve.

“Once the document is submitted, it becomes the agreement with the customer and the roadmap for the project. If anything at all changes, those changes must be submitted to the customer, then the revised PPAP document becomes the new agreement.”

The Process

The PPAP begins with the Sales Department going through what is called the Advanced Product Quality Planning Process (APQP). “This is a high level and detailed assessment to ensure any and all quality and engineering requirements for the part can, in fact, be completed by the software, machines and personnel in our plant,” Matt said. “Sales will often check with the Quality Department to make sure we won’t run into any issues on the fabrication line.

“Based on the initial review, we bring up any concerns with the customer and work with their engineers to make recommendations for better manufacturability. For example, we might know it will be difficult for us to maintain a certain tolerance on a feature of the part, so we’ll negotiate and reach an acceptable compromise with the customer.

“The APQP is done before the PPAP to avoid wasting time and effort collecting and compiling documentation when, in fact, the part may not have been good fit for our operation in the first place.”

Into the System

Once the PPAP is signed, all the documentation it contains is downloaded to generate an Electronic Demand Profile (EDP) through Laser Precision’s electronic resource planning (ERP) software. The ERP includes a system of integrated applications to manage the manufacturing process.

“In other words, we can capture all the data about the specific part plus all the operations (laser cutting, forming, welding, etc.), materials and actions needed to fabricate the piece,” Matt said. “Anything anyone needs to know about the job is right there. From sales to purchasing to the individual machines, each employee has a dashboard that shows the actions they must take to complete the job.”

Embracing the Process

There are a lot of companies where the PPAP is just cost of doing business. It’s something they have to do, so they tend to roll their eyes and go through the motions. At Laser Precision, we recognize that all the time spent up front creating a good PPAP saves even more time during the production run.

“We leverage PPAPs to optimize productivity, deploy the data collected to drive other systems and use lessons learned to achieve consistent success,” Matt said. “Thanks in part to our PPAPs, you can reliably expect you’ll get the right parts, made to exacting tolerances, when we say you will.”

Do you have confidence that your vendor can deliver what they promise? If not, please contact us. Our production process will be ready.