What is the APQP Framework?

The APQP is a Framework that helps companies Define, Design and Launch their products efficiently.

  • Its an acronym for “Advanced Product Quality Planning”.

 

It considers Quality as the most determining factor in launching a product successfully.

  • Not only in the final product, but also in the manufacturing process.

 

It is based on 5 steps, which cover the different stages involved in the development of any product.

5 Steps of the APQP Framework

1. Planning and Definition: Define what your Goal is and Plan what needs to be done.

  • In this Stage, you must Prepare and Define everything.

 

2. Product Design and Development: Design and Define your Product.

  • What will be its Cost, Quality… And how can you avoid Design Flaws.

 

3. Process Design: How the Product will be Developed.

  • Define the Manufacturing Process and the Product Commercialization.

 

4. Validation: Product and Process Confirmation.

  • Validate that the Product and Process are Solid and Sustainable.

 

5. Launch and Feedback: Product launch and Continuous Improvement.

  • Establish feedback channels so you can improve current and future products.

APQP Framework representation.

 

Usually, in each one of these Stages, Big Corporations:

  • Develop Multiple Analysis.
  • Elaborate long and detailed Checklists.
  • Have specialized Teams in charge.
  • etc.

That is why Small Businesses practically never use this tool.

  • Nor others like FMEA, Banced Scorecard…

 

We’ll try to suggest you a more “flexible and accessible-to-everybody” approach.

  • As we often say: It is better to have a simple but useful tool instead of a perfect yet useless one.

 

Now, let’s look at the first example:

APQP Framework example

 

The PlayStation is that kind of Products that drives everyone crazy.

 

But… Why PlayStations have always been so successful?

  • Because Sony did things right.

Sony planned and designed everything perfectly.

 

Let’s imagine what a PlayStation development APQP might look like:

 

1. Planning and Definition:

Over the years, Sony analyzes what their customers value the most in their Consoles.

  • Therefore, the next PlayStation offers a better experience than the previous one.

 

So, this Planning and Definition Stage may take years and can include:

  • Graphics and Specifications.
  • Controller Design and ergonomics.
  • What is the trend in games (open world games, multiplayer…).
    • So that the console can better meet the necessary specifications.
  • etc.

 

2. Product Design and Development:

With all this valuable customer information, Sony can Start Designing the next console.

  • Its hardware and software structure.
  • Potential Failure Modes.
  • Target prize and features needed.
  • etc.

 

3. Process Design:

At this Stage, Sony probably analyzes:

  • How they can mass-produce the PlayStation.
  • How this process can be optimized.
  • etc.

 

4. Validation:

At this Stage, Sony probably:

  • Receives the first feedback from experts and experienced players.
  • Establishes/ Validates the final price.
  • etc.

 

5. Launch and Feedback:

This Stage, strictly speaking, can last for years.

  • Sony continuously collects customer information and Feedback.

This Stage connects with the first one.

 

But, in addition to collecting data and feedback, at this Stage, Sony may:

  • Decide how many consoles they will eventually distribute to each country.
  • Carefully analyze first impressions in case there is an undetected problem.
  • etc

… And prepare the PlayStation 6…

We know all this seems obvious.

  • We mention this often because it is what most of the people think about many management tools.

 

Then, Why is the APQP framework important?

Why is APQP important?

Because it offers you a management method to follow from the Conception of a product to its Launch (and later).

 

While other methods focus on certain parts or Stages…

For example:

  • The FMEA (Failure Mode and Effects Analysis) focus on the Product Design.
  • The Ishikawa Diagram focuses on finding the root cause of an existing Problem.
  • The OKR method focuses on setting Goals.

* Check our publications in case you are more interested in it.

 

… The APQP framework covers the entire Product life cycle.

Let’s now explain when you should use this tool:

When should you use the APQP Framework?

Although the APQP was conceived as an industrial management tool (in the automobile sector) you can use it in all kinds of Business activities.

 

As we usually mention, we encourage you to use this tool as much as possible.

  • It offers you a clear path to follow.

 

However, we highly recommend that you use it:

  • If you have a clear Product-oriented Business.
  • If you offer a well defined Service.
  • Whenever you have to Launch a new product or Service.
  • When you offer a product that is expected to be of high quality.
    • Technical and Industrial products, specially.

 

Let’s see some examples:

APQP examples

Now, we’ll share some examples with you.

 

We will try to discover what the different APQP could have been for 2 famous products.

  • The first Product failed.
  • The second Product succeeded.

 

Let’s begin:

Game Gear - APQP example

 

We mentioned before the PlayStation APQP example.

  • And why has it always been such a successful gaming console.

Now, we’ll see what happens if you don’t use the APQP properly.

 

What happened with the Game Gear?

It was a very advanced product for its time:

  • It had a color backlit display.
    • The Game Boy had a green-grey monochrome screen.
  • It was “almost” a 16 bit console.
    • The Game Boy was an 8-bit Console.
  • At that time, Sega was succeeding with its Sonic franchise.

 

Why did it fail?

 

Let’s develop a Quick APQP and try to figure it out:

 

1. Planning and Definition:

Sega defined what everybody wanted in a handheld console:

  • A color backlit “big” screen.
  • Good advanced 16-bit graphics.

 

2. Product Design and Development:

In this Stage, Sega decided:

  • The components they would use.
  • What the price could, and should be.
  • The overall design.

 

Here, they made the First mistake:

  • They couldn’t meet all the specifications successfully with an acceptable price.

 

They chose “cheap” components (blurry screen, poor capacitors, etc).

  • And even so, the final price was high, compared to that of Game Boy.
    • $150 vs $89.

 

With a proper FMEA analysis (it fosuses on potential design flaws) they could have prevented lots of the problems they had later.

 

3. Process Design:

  • We cannot know to what extent they could have reduced the final price with good quality if they had designed the manufacturing Process appropriately.
    • But it is a possibility.

 

4. Validation:

In the Validation Stage, they committed the biggest mistake.

  • Not hearing the “voice of the customer” properly (in preliminary tests)… and on time.

 

There were problems that they could have foreseen:

  • The product was too expensive.
  • The screen was blurry.
  • 6 AA batteries lasted for 3 hour.

 

5. Launch and Feedback:

Once this product was launched, there was few things that Sega could do to solve the issues.

  • Solve the battery problem was difficult.
    • The Console really required that many batteries.
  • The barely had any alternative to the screen they chose.
    • Today, there are many “affordable” display alternatives, but at the time, there were not.

 

For the specifications they designed, it was impossible to lower the price.

  • And, improving some features would mean even a higher price.

 

The project was doomed since its launch.

iPhone - APQP example

 

It is one of the most iconic and successful products in the last decade: the iPhone.

  • We can’t even imagine the huge and detailed plans that Apple must have.

 

However, we’ll try to develop a brief and summarized APQP of the first iPhone (released in 2007):

 

1. Planning and Definition:

In this first Stage, Apple decided that:

  • Everybody loved the concept of “touchscreens” but also hated the common plastic finish.
    • They would use a touchscreen that felt like glass and didn’t required a “touch pen”.
  • Everybody wanted to have internet in their mobile phones that felt like the “real thing”.
    • They would develop the best mobile-internet experience.
  • People wanted new things.
    • They integrated an easy to use app-store, with all kinds of Apps.

 

2. Product Design and Development:

In this Stage, Apple had to:

  • Decide what the iPhone would look like.
    • And what materials and prices should they target.
  • Defined what the App-store would look like.
    • And how they would charge for the Apps.
  • What interface they would use (the famous icon-based iOS).

 

3. Process Design:

In this Stage, Apple had to:

  • Decide what suppliers would be the best for:
    • The “touchscreen”.
    • The battery.
    • All the different components.
  • How and where they would manufacture the iPhone.
    • Finally they chose Foxconn, in China.
  • What quality standards would they require of their suppliers.

 

* Apple outsources the assembly process of its products.

 

4. Validation:

In this Stage, Apple probably:

  • Distributed a beta version of their iPhone to different experts.
    • And reviewed the Feedback.
  • Validated the final price.
    • In fact it was “so expensive” that they had to offer it with a “financial plan” along with AT&T in the USA.

 

5. Launch and Feedback:

In this Stage, Apple probably:

  • Started the Launch and Marketing campaign.
    • And its “legendary” release, in 2007.
  • Defined how they would analyze their customers’ feedback.
    • To improve the next iPhone.

 

The result?

  • Today, we have the iPhone 11… And it’s been exactly 13 years since they released the first iPhone.
  • Apple is now worth 1 trillion dollars…

It’s been a successful product, we think…

Summarizing

The APQP is a Framework that helps companies Define, Design and Launch their products efficiently.

  • It considers Quality as the most determining factor in launching a product successfully.

 

It is based on 5 steps:

  1. Planning and Definition.
  2. Product Design and Development.
  3. Process Design.
  4. Validation.
  5. Launch and Feedback.

 

The APQP is a very useful and complete tool, since it offers a method to follow from the Conception of a product to its Launch.

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