For many American and European importers of car parts, managing the PPAP with their Chinese suppliers is often a headache.
A manufacturer that applies the PPAP (Production Part Approval Process) will greatly reduce the probability of serious issues in production. It is a very solid process that addresses in a preventive manner most sources of problems. Which is why it is required by car makers.
Unfortunately, Chinese companies often try to game the system. They are asked to provide documents (the 18 basic elements of the PPAP are listed on Wikipedia, and there are sometimes a few extra requirements), but they wonder: is there a way to produce the paperwork without doing the hard work?
If you already work with Chinese manufacturers, you have certainly noticed that few of them truly apply ISO 9001 or ISO/TS 16949, even when they are certified to these standards. Many auditors pay attention to documents but don't scratch the surface to see if procedures are effective in practice.
Let's take an example: the process FMEA (a study of potential issues that could come up based on the intended production process). It is a hard exercise in itself.
Generally speaking, China's education system does not foster proactive thinking. Very few engineers make a list of potential issues and of preventive actions that correspond to each potential issue.
For these reasons, the FMEA approach is very, very seldom applied here. And that's quite easy to detect based on this checklist:
- Is it conducted during or after the production process planning exercise?
- Is it conducted without the involvement from quality, manufacturing, and engineering people?
- Do quality people actually understand the document? How about manufacturing and engineering people?
- Do the failure modes listed make sense?
- Were all process steps addressed? Any obvious step forgotten? What about subcontracted steps (e.g. metal plating)?
- Do preventive actions address a root cause? Do they seem adequate?
- How does the followup on preventive actions go? Is something really improved?
- Is the FMEA a living document, or a one-time exercise?
This is just an example. When our consultants manage the PPAP process, they conduct this type of reviews all the time and the result is often not pretty. But this is the way to push the manufacturer to do the hard work upfront and avoid most potential issues down the road!