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AS9145 and Advanced Product Quality Planning

03 July 2020
The aerospace world is relatively fast-moving, although you don’t see many new aircrafts there are more than you think, they take many years to go through testing and approvals. 

Believe it or not, the Boeing 747 (probably the most famous and recognisable aircraft in the world) had its first flight on 9th February 1969, that’s just over 40 years ago.

One of the key developments over the years within the aviation industry is the vast and diverse supply chain. As technology advances and the world have become a smaller place, the process of supplier approval is a huge burden on aircraft manufacturers. Manufacturers are now having to source products and services from around the world and that process includes the approval and ongoing monitoring. Both of which are costly and time-consuming.
Controlling the end to end supply chain is getting more complex and expectations are high, the manufacturers need parts delivered on time and to high-quality standards and most importantly ensuring they are safe and reliable. Suppliers are also trying to ensure these requirements are being met without increasing the burden on their own business.
One of the methodologies manufacturers are starting to implement throughout the supply chain is Advanced Product Quality Planning (APQP) and Production Part Approval Processes (PPAP). These methodologies have been used for many years within the automotive sector but have been adapted to suit the needs of the aerospace community and we are now seeing the requirements flowed down through the supply chain.
The idea of APQP and PPAP is to establish common requirements, for use at all levels of the supply chain and reduce the risk of manufacturing components to the incorrect specifications by reducing unique requirements. To support the implementation of the methodologies, the IAQG has produced a new standard AS9145, this is not currently a certifiable standard but will highlight the expectations from the process and is to be used as a guide.
You may start to see APQP, PPAP or AS9145 referenced on contracts now or in the near future so its a good idea to get yourself up to date with the requirements.

Pillars of APQP

There is three guiding pillars to an effective APQP:

  1. Organizational commitment and management support

    1. The information generated through the APQP process allows management to track and pace new/modified product development activities.

  2. Cross-functional team

    1. The use of cross-functional teams builds unity of purpose across the business. It supports commitment and alignment with project timing and ensures effective communication across the various business functions. The implementation of the APQP relies on many different personal within the organization.

  3. Effective project planning

    1. The project plan is based on the customer’s needs. Key target dates are cascaded throughout the value stream.

Within each of the 5 phases, there are discrete activities that need to be completed, these are referred to as Elements. There are also key deliverables to demonstrate than an element has been completed effectively.
When you work through each phase you will be required to use the resources and knowledge of a wide cross-functional team. There are lots of different elements within each phase and it is impossible for the information to be obtained from one person as it is just too diverse.

Who should apply AS9145?

Typically AS9145, APQP and PPAP are intended to be used by larger organizations but it can apply to any size and if it is flowed down through the contract then it would need to apply, no matter the size of the business.
What is likely to happen, is that it will be limited in scope for your organization, especially if you are not the design authority and just manufacture to customer requirements. The system is broken down into phases and you can exclude certain phases if they do not apply to you.

Five key phases of APQP

There are five key phases of Advanced Product Quality Planning (APQP):

  • Phase 1 - Planning

  • Phase 2 - Product Design and Development

  • Phase 3 - Process Design and Development

  • Phase 4 - Product and Process Validation

  • Phase 5 - On-going Production, Use, and Post-Delivery Service

Phase 1 and 2 would only apply if you are the design organization/authority, you may, however, be asked by the design organization to support them with certain aspects of these phases. Phases 3 to 5 would apply to manufacturing organizations but all phases would need to come together for the overall product introduction, you can't pick and choose which phases to apply.
The PPAP element is not required if phases 2, 3 and 4 are not applied as this is a manufacturing methodology.

Phase 1 - Planning

As the title suggests, phase 1 is all about planning the entire process from start to finish and one of the key deliverables of this phase is a preliminary BOM (Bill of Materials) and a product concept.
It is important in this phase to identify all of the input requirements applicable to the design and development of the product including the after shipment support.
Some of the input requirements include:

  • Customer, regulatory, and internal requirements, including special requirements and references to supporting technical specifications

  • Lessons learned from previous design projects, producer feedback, benchmark data, current manufacturing capability, internal/external product performance and reliability data, warranty data, and other relevant sources

  • Targets for product safety, performance, quality/manufacturability, reliability, and service life. Other targets may be included or durability, maintainability, schedule, and cost (as appropriate)

As part of the BOM creation, organizations need to identify possible sources of supply at this stage, they may not be the final suppliers but it's important to highlight potential suppliers based on the initial make or buy decisions.
A preliminary risk assessment is also required as part of the deliverables of this phases. The risk assessment should identify the systems, assemblies, and components related to the APQP phases 2, 3 and 4.
A project plan is also one of the deliverables for phase 1, there are a number of stipulations for the project plan in terms of what needs to be considered and addressed within the plan with a focus on the customer timelines.

The elements of this phase include:

  • Project Inputs

  • Product design requirements

  • Producer Product Specification

  • Project targets – safety, quality/manufacturability, service life, reliability, durability, maintainability, schedule, and cost

  • A preliminary listing of Critical Items (CIs) and Key Characteristics (KCs)

  • Preliminary Bill of Material (BOM)

  • Preliminary process flow diagram

  • Statement of Work (SOW) review

  • Preliminary sourcing plan

  • Project plan

Phase 2 - Product Design and Development

The premise behind phase 2 is to transpose all of the information determined in phase 1 into a controlled, verified and validated design.
This phase is very detailed and lots of elements come together to create the design including suppliers, key characteristics and manufacturing instructions.
A key deliverable of the process is the design risk analysis, the risk analysis will ascertain whether the design will meet performance requirements and costs. Design Failure Mode and Effects Analysis is one method that is commonly used to complete this process. The design risk analysis should be a live document throughout the rest of the phases, if something changes, especially in the process design then the risk analysis should be revisited.
The inputs to this overall process are the deliverables from phase 1, most importantly the project plan. At the end of the phase, a feasibility study shall be performed to determine if the design can be manufactured, assembled, tested, packaged, and delivered in sufficient quantity on schedule and at the correct price target. If any of those can not be met then you will need to revise part of the phase design to bring back into conformance.

The elements of this phase include:

  • Design risk analysis

  • Design records

  • Bill of Material (BOM)

  • Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (DFMA), tolerance, stack-up analysis, etc.

  • Design for Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (DMRO)

  • Special requirements, including product Key Characteristics (KCs) and Critical

  • Items (CIs) listings

  • Preliminary risk analysis of sourcing plan

  • Packaging specification

  • Design review report

  • Development product build plan

  • Design verification and validation plans, and associated results

  • Feasibility assessment

At the end of all elements, you should have a complete, verified and validated design with prototypes completed, resulting reports, key characteristics and sources of supply defined.

Phase 3 - Process Design and Development

This phase is all about setting up your manufacturing process and proving its capabilities. If an organization is being given the design by the customer then they are likely to get more involved at this stage. They might have been involved in earlier stages to help with the feasibility of manufacturing but this is where they start to get dirty.
The key deliverable at the end of the phase is the Production Readiness Review (PRR). The PRR provides the team and the customer confidence that the process is capable of producing the product consistently and in compliance with customer and producer requirements.
The elements of this phase include:

  • Process flow diagram

  • Floor plan layout

  • Production preparation plan

  • Process Failure Mode & Effect Analysis (PFMEA)

  • Process Key Characteristics (KCs)

  • Control plan

  • Preliminary capacity assessment

  • Work station documentation

  • Measurement Systems Analysis (MSA) Plan

  • Supply Chain Risk Management Plan

  • Material handling, packaging, labelling, and part marking approvals

  • Production Readiness Review (PRR) results

It’s no surprise that this is probably the most detailed phase of the APQP model, some organizations will call this their New Product Introduction but rarely do we see this level of detail. There are lots of elements, each of which takes time to develop and implement. You need to build in time to complete all of these elements before you even start to manufacture initial sample parts. None of these elements will be completed overnight
It’s interesting to see key characteristics being defined in this phase and the previous phase as this is a particular weakness seen within management systems and design records. Auditors will typically not see any defined key characteristics or a drawing that states all measurements are key which isn’t actually true. Design and manufacturing organizations need to get together to ensure that key characteristics are suitably identified by both parties. If your design states that all dimensions are key characteristics then the cost of the product goes through the roof as all dimensions need to be measured and tracked.
A PFMEA is a great weapon in any management system and even if you are not following AS9145 or APQP it can bring great benefit to your system. A PFMEA could be used to demonstrate compliance against clause 8.1 operational risk management within AS9100 and should be kept up to date with changes.

Phase 4 - Product and Process Validation

This phase is all about approving those initial products using tools such as First Article Inspection Reports and more importantly PPAP as mentioned earlier. The key deliverable of this phase is the PPAP but to make up the PPAP you need to have a number of elements completed.
The first production runs are trials to prove the process, the PPAP document is the records to demonstrate the production run has been successful and meets the initial design input requirements. You are proving the capability of production to meet demand as per the plan produced in the previous phases. Depending on the product, the production run could run into multiples of products, not just a single part, you may need to provide tooling so will produce a number of parts. All of this should be planned.
You need to have in place all of your production equipment and tooling, correct suppliers in place etc. it’s not like when you do a prototype and you could possibly use alternatives, you need to use the actual processes and products defined within the design.

The elements of this phase include:

  • Production Process Runs

  • Measurement Systems Analysis (MSA)

  • Initial Process Capability Studies

  • Control Plan

  • Capacity Verification

  • Product Validation Results

  • First Article Inspection (FAI)

  • Production Part Approval Process (PPAP) file and Approval Form

  • Customer Specific Requirements

A PPAP may be something organizations within the aerospace sector have never come across before. The PPAP documentation pack consists of records from phases 2, 3 and 4 of the APQP:

PPAP Element

APQP Phase

Design records


Design risk analysis (e.g. DFMEA); only applicable to design organizations


Process flow diagram


Process Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (PFMEA)


Control plan


Measurement system analysis (MSA)


Initial process capability studies


Packaging, preservation, and labelling approvals


First article inspection report


Customer PPAP requirements


PPAP Approval Form


Phase 5 - Ongoing production, use, and post-delivery service

Phase 4 will get the products released and approved for production, phase 5 is all about the ongoing monitoring of the product through the lifecycle.
One of the key deliverables is capturing lessons learnt from the production process but also field data such as from warranty claims. This information should be used to improve the current product and also future products. As much data as possible should be collated and analysed, FMEAs should be maintained throughout the lifecycle and updated as necessary with lessons learned. If savings within the process can be made, ether time, efficiencies, costs or process variations they should be implemented if appropriate.

The elements of this phase include:

  • Measuring Performance

  • Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) KPIs and plan(s) to reach the established targets

  • Continuous improvement actions

  • Lessons learned


The above is just a short overview of each of the phases and the elements within each, within each of the individual elements there are multiple deliverables. The APQP process is very detailed and will not be generated overnight but for large multi-year programmes, the effort upfront should pay dividends over time. There should be cost reductions, fewer failures, better process capabilities and overall higher customer satisfaction and safer products.
If you see APQP, PPAP or AS9145 mentioned in any of your contracts, take your time to digest the requirements and plan for the implementation. Remember the three key pillars; Organizational commitment and Management Support, Cross-Functional Team, Effective Project Planning.