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APQP Builder
by Quality Associates International

System requirements: Pentium processor-based PC; Windows 95, 98, NT or 2000; 32 MB RAM; 50 MB free disk space.

Price: $995 per user (discounts available).

Contact: Quality Associates International
23810 Michigan Ave., Suite 202
Dearborn, MI 48124
Telephone: (313) 565-6266
Fax: (313) 564-4895

Create Smart FMEAs
APQP Builder

by Dirk Dusharme

For many automotive suppliers, the Big Three-mandated alphabet soup of FMEAs, PCPs and APQPs is enough to cause severe indigestion, or at least a diminished appetite for documentation. This becomes particularly true when failure mode and effects analysis, process control plans and advanced product quality planning are viewed more as a curse than as a means for improving processes. The benefit of these steps and ensuing documentation--information gathering and dissemination so that mistakes aren't repeated--is often lost because there are often no effective means for tying the information together in a sensible, useful way. Documentation efforts are often duplicated and the information poorly communicated, if at all.

 APQP Builder from Datakel Information Services and Quality Associates International was designed from the ground up to not only facilitate the required documentation but also to facilitate the use of the information collected during the process.

 Through a unique set of data links, this Access-based database program leads the user through product development and deployment with critical data linkages between both design and process FMEAs and design verification and process control plans, respectively. The result is that information collected during design is available to downstream users and information collected in the field (failures) is available to designers and production planners.

 The software's design is fairly straightforward. The user defines a product's systems, subsystems and teams. As design or process issues occur, members create projects and assign teams. A project is typically a failure mode that needs to be analyzed using either a design or process FMEA, depending on the product's position in the development cycle. As the user enters project information, it's stored and becomes available in pull-down menus for use in later projects. The dynamic pull-down menu is part of what gives this product its oomph. As more history on a product is gained, the more pull-down menus grow. This has two effects: Data entry is simplified and standardized and, more important, activated pull-down menus give brief histories of product aspects at a glance. The importance of this becomes apparent later.

 Once the user has set up a project, all is in place to start FMEA. As the FMEA reports are filled out, users select failure modes and severity, potential causes and occurrence, and design controls and detection from the pull-down menus. The severity, occurrence and detection pull-downs are based on Society for Automotive Engineers tables, although users can create their own. If users enter their own descriptions in a failure mode, cause or control field, the software prompts them to add the new entry to the pull-down menu. This is how the pull-downs grow and slowly become a tabular history of that system's failure modes, causes and controls.

 One click of the mouse is all it takes to transfer FMEA information to a design verification plan and report or process control plan, automatically building a list of test steps based on FMEA.

 APQP Builder comes with an Eight Discipline problem solving methodology built in. This can be changed by the user to look like Seven Discipline or any other problem solving methodology. In keeping with this product's goal of linking information, the user has the option of linking several aspects of the problem solving form to other forms in the product. For instance, the problem description defined in the 8D form can be added to the failure mode list for the FMEA forms with just another mouse click. The obvious advantage here is that the failure mode now becomes visible to the next person who generates an FMEA, raising the visibility of that particular issue. In addition, the prevention stage of 8D can link to a FMEA, DVP&R or PCP.

 Other useful software features are the ability to e-mail actions to team members, create cause/priority or severity/occurrence tables, and view a test plan Gantt chart. Reports can be e-mailed to team members as screen snapshots.

 All in all, we found APQP Builder to be a useful tool, although the user interface is inconsistent and a little difficult to use. In some cases the software keeps track of which project, system or component you are looking at so that when you change screens, you see complementary information. In some cases, though, it doesn't do this. For instance, when changing to the DVP&R from the design FMEA view of a subsystem, you may not be shown the DVP&R for that subsystem. You must be sure that you first select the appropriate DVP&R from the DVP&R list. The online user manual is terse but sufficient if you are already familiar with APQP.

 The upcoming version of APQP Builder, due this month, will address some of the interface issues and will contain some welcome additions, such as a characteristic matrix and an open issues action bar.

 Keep an eye open for the next release.


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