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Cole Cooper


PPAPs: A Supplier’s View

Time-consuming, constantly changing, but worth it

Published: Thursday, November 10, 2016 - 15:03

A production part approval process (PPAP) is used by companies to establish confidence and rules in a production process. In a sense, it gives customers a view into their suppliers’ manufacturing capabilities.

A PPAP is required when there is a new part, engineering changes, tooling changes, discrepancy corrections are made, or there are part production changes to a different or additional location. Each of these require the supplier to prove that the change has not affected its capabilities. PPAPs are now used throughout the automotive industry and are spreading into other areas of manufacturing.

Customers want the reassurance of knowing that they are getting what they asked for, and that there are controls in place to monitor the quality of the work and any changes that are made. They want to be assured that the supplier has the capability of controlling its processes as well as the capability of producing the amount of parts needed.

PPAPs are great agreements and references for both the customer and the supplier. However, PPAPs are not standard and can change depending on the industry and even the individual customer. Taking a deeper look, here is how PPAPs affect the supplier.

Variances in PPAPs

For the automotive industry, the Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG) sets specific standards that must be met by manufacturers. This rolls over into all parts of the production process, including suppliers. This is normal, and suppliers stay on top of these requirements.

However, not every customer has the same set of standards. Some customers go above and beyond AIAG standards, requiring additional information. We’ve increasingly seen customers set higher standards than the ones they are required to meet. This has made it more complicated for suppliers because not all customers have the same requirements. For example, some customers request the supplier to provide extra material testing above what the standard requires, and some customers want capability studies for 100 percent of all dimensions, when normally the requirement is just for critical dimensions. This increases labor time and testing costs, and increases complexity.

Variances in PPAPs is a huge factor when talking about complexity, but it isn’t the only one. It’s not just about upping requirements; it’s also about providing more information in general.

Obtaining more information depends on the customer. Some customers request certifications of the labs used by suppliers and calibration records for the tools suppliers use to check parts dimensions and features. Customers may also request different types of lab results. One customer may accept the supplier’s testing methods while another may want compliance to Restriction of Hazardous Substance (RoHS), or the European Union’s Restriction, Evaluation, Authorization, and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH), or third-party testing.

There is also an additional portion from the International Material Data System that may be filled out, depending on the industry. This also depends on the customer. Some customers prefer to have just the materials for the component listed while others prefer to see the component as a tree, having the materials branched out from the component itself. Although creating these are not that difficult, knowing which customer wants it what way can be confusing.

Some customers also request different information in the dimensional report. The dimensional report is data-driven; however, suppliers may have to supply every single aspect of the print (including the notes) in the dimensional report. This could even include characteristics like color, material, or cleanliness. Customers may supply a template to fill out, but the supplier might also have to create its own to check off the customer’s wants. Bottom line: Suppliers give the customers what they ask for.

PPAPs are continuously changing. For instance, when an ISO standard (e.g. ISO 9001) changes, those changes may propagate down the line. That is, change in an ISO standard affects AIAG, which affects PPAPs. Since these change can occur every few years, the customers also change their standards, so suppliers must continually stay on top of these and be flexible when it comes to customer needs.

All of this takes time. Requiring more information means more time in collecting and producing that information, and more time equals more expense. Any one PPAP can take a minimum of two hours to up to a week or more to complete, and can be 40 to 60 pages of data. There could be thousands of hours put into a PPAP from kickoff to completion, not to mention training employees on the PPAP process.

After the PPAP is completed by the supplier, it must go through an approval process. Approximately one out of 25 PPAPs gets rejected here at Echo. However, a rejection could be due to a typo on a dimensional tolerance or some other small overlooked issue. These don’t happen very often, and they are usually quick fixes.

But the positive side

All of this may sound pretty negative. As a supplier, we’re constantly working to stay on top of the various PPAP requirements from each of our customers. Yes, PPAPs have their difficulties, but they have some very positive effects on both the customer and the supplier.

When customers approve a PPAP, they are stating that what is in the document is how they agree to purchase the part. It’s basically a legally binding agreement. The PPAP states the process to be used. If conflict happens, the PPAP can be referred to. This covers the customers as well as the supplier if either side makes changes that were not introduced in the document. It’s protection for both sides.

A PPAP also creates peace of mind for the customer. The customer is reassured that the supplier can keep up with the demand and meet requirements and relevant standards. The PPAP also states the packaging, size of boxes to be used, and the weight of the part and packaging. The customer knows this information ahead of time and will also be able to calculate how much will be spent on shipping.

Yes, PPAPs vary depending on the customer and situation. They can also be very complex. But they serve a purpose that ultimately provides positive outcomes for both the supplier and the customer. As PPAPs change, the supplier must change to maintain customer satisfaction, success for the customer, and success for the supplier itself. Change is good, right?


About The Author

Cole Cooper’s picture

Cole Cooper

Cole Cooper is a writer at Echo Engineering and Production Supplies, provider of rubber and plastic manufacturing components and finishing solutions. Cooper creates content for multiple media channels covering various topics within the manufacturing industry.