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Production Part Approval Process (PPAP): How To Help Your China Manufacturer

March 10, 2024

 by Renaud Anjoran

PPAP process spelled out

The Production Part Approval Process (PPAP) is a cornerstone of quality assurance in global manufacturing, applicable not only in automotive but also across electronics, aerospace, and other industries. This standard is pivotal for ensuring that every component meets stringent quality and reliability standards before mass production. We navigate a path toward operational excellence by exploring the PPAP's economic logic and practical challenges—particularly those faced when working with Chinese manufacturers. Understanding PPAP is crucial for manufacturers aiming to establish strong supplier partnerships and achieve product integrity. As we dissect the process and its 18 key elements, we highlight strategies to overcome common obstacles, fostering a culture of continuous improvement and superior quality across the manufacturing spectrum.

What is Production Part Approval Process (PPAP)?

PPAP, or the Production Part Approval Process, is a standard used primarily in the automotive industry to ensure suppliers meet OEMs’ stringent quality and specification requirements before starting mass production. This process involves suppliers submitting specific documents and samples, such as design records and material certifications, to demonstrate their capability to produce parts consistently according to specifications. Essential for minimizing the risk of part failures and enhancing overall safety and satisfaction, PPAP underlines the importance of high-quality manufacturing standards, encourages continuous improvement, and helps establish clear communication between manufacturers and their suppliers.

The 18 Elements of PPAP Under 6 Main Categories

PPAP comprises 18 elements, which we've organized into six categories: Design Documentation and changes, Risk Analysis, Process Verification, Material and Compliance Verification, Visual and Sample Assessment, and Supporting Documentation. This organization streamlines the review process, emphasizing the framework's role in maintaining high manufacturing standards.

  1. Design Documentation & Changes: Design Documentation, Engineering Change Documentation, Customer Engineering Approval.
  2. Risk Analysis: Design FMEA (Failure Mode and Effects Analysis), Process FMEA.
  3. Process Verification: Process Flow Diagrams, Control Plan, Measurement System Analysis (MSA), Dimensional Results, and Initial Process Studies.
  4. Material and Compliance Verification: Material and Performance Tests, Qualified Laboratory Documentation, Records of Compliance.
  5. Visual and Sample Assessment: Appearance Approval Report (AAR), Sample Production Parts, Master Sample.
  6. Supporting Documentation: Checking Aids, Part Submission Warrant (PSW).

 

Navigating PPAP Challenges with Chinese Manufacturers

Implementing the Production Part Approval Process (PPAP) can pose significant challenges for Chinese manufacturers, primarily due to their traditional approaches to production and documentation. The shift to the structured, detailed demands of PPAP, from risk management to meticulous record-keeping, often requires a significant change in mindset and operations. We explore four key areas where these challenges typically manifest, offering insights into why PPAP might be particularly difficult for your Chinese manufacturer to navigate.

  1. Explain why the PPAP process makes sense economically

    As car makers outsourced the production of most components, they wanted their suppliers to follow the processes that had proven their value internally. The PPAP is basically a set of best practices that OEMs request their tier 1 suppliers to go through.

    Chinese suppliers like to work with little structure. They tend to start a job and work out the kinks over time. That's fine for small batches, especially when no repeat order exists. However, this approach can kill them in a different context.

    Car parts are often made in the millions, continuously over several years. Purchase contracts usually don't allow the supplier to fall behind in delivering acceptable parts. Qualifying a new supplier for 1 part of a vehicle requires many millions in new testing, so there is a LOT of pressure on those suppliers that got qualified in the first place.

    Here are the main risks for a supplier:

    - Low output: They might fall behind schedule due to issues they haven't caught in the pilot run, which might not have been set up properly. They might have to send the parts by plane. If they are so late that the car plant's production schedule is affected, the penalties might drive them out of business. Stoppages can cost 40,000 USD a minute!

    - A high proportion of defects: Delays might occur if quality issues are stopped in the factory. If the customer notices them, a 100% inspection job (paid by the supplier to a directed third party) might be imposed, which typically ends up being quite expensive.

    How can we avoid these issues and eliminate the "we do it because it is required" mindset? The best approach is to convince your suppliers to follow the APQP approach. This will structure their new product introduction process and ensure they prepare all the PPAP requirements.

  2. Explain that the PPAP is not just a set of documents

    To get paid, Chinese exporters must provide their customers with documents: commercial invoices, packing lists, bills of lading, and certificates of origin. So they get organized and can prepare these documents on time and in full.

    When a customer asks for a PPAP before mass production can start, most Chinese manufacturers think, "Oh, another set of documents to prepare."

    Again, they see it as a compliance issue—a cost of doing business. What it is, actually, is an investment in getting mass production to run with minimal issues and keeping their costs down for the whole project.

  3. Help them do some of the engineering right

    They might have been forging, casting, machining, or injecting auto parts for 20 years, but they have probably never done an FMEA right (for example). Since a set of documents needs to be prepared, one person fills out templates in his office. He is not engaging representatives of several other departments, he is not doing much of the work he is supposed to do, and he writes fake data.

    These are just a few of the issues we frequently detect when conducting a PPAP review. Very often, they haven't paid much attention to a document as vital as the control plan!

  4. Be transparent about the likelihood of getting the business

    Many importers "sell" their projects to Chinese manufacturers. They give volume and timing projections that are overly optimistic. On his side, the manufacturer notes that promised volumes are always lower than promised. They note that some “really hot business opportunities” never materialize.

    After a few years, they become quite cynical and want to see orders before they invest in a new project. This is what you want to avoid. Don’t overplay your cards. Be straightforward; they will learn over time that a “serious project” is indeed serious. Hopefully, they will take the time and affect the resources needed to follow a good PPAP process.

 

Embracing Manufacturing Excellence with the PPAP Process

Navigating the PPAP process with Chinese manufacturers requires compliance and fostering mutual commitment to quality. By understanding the economic logic behind PPAP and addressing its perceived burdens, we encourage suppliers to view this framework as an opportunity for improvement rather than an obstacle. This approach mitigates risks, enhances efficiency, and strengthens the trust between manufacturers and their clients. Embracing the PPAP process is about building lasting partnerships based on a foundation of excellence. 

What have you done to prepare for PPAP better? Please leave a comment below, and we'll respond.


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Topics: PPAP, Quality

Renaud Anjoran

Renaud Anjoran

15 years experience in China.
Partner, China Manufacturing Consultants.
Worked with hundreds of factories in China.
Certifications: ASQ CQE & CRE; ISO 9001 & 14001 lead auditor.
Author of well-read blog, Quality Inspection Tips.

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