APQP A Quality Improvement Process In Maintenance Management

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maintenance management teamAPQP (Advanced Product Quality Planning) is a framework of processes and ideas originally developed in the automobile industry to improve product quality. It is similar in concept to Six Sigma used in many manufacturing operations to reduce defects and improve quality. Over the years APQP ideas have spread far beyond the auto industry and they have wide applicability in many other industries. Here we will try to cover some of the APQP ideas and processes and see how in conjunction with CMMS software they can help improve maintenance practices and management.

How does APQP work?

At its core it starts with an initial quality planning stage and ongoing 5 step process of determining if customers are satisfied by evaluating the output and making adjustments for continuous improvement. This process is never ending and is often illustrated with the Plan, Do, Study, Act Cycle. The five steps are:

  • Plan and Define Program
  • Product Design and Development Verification
  • Process Design and Development Verification
  • Product and Process Validation and Production Feedback
  • Feedback, Assessment & Corrective Action

How relevant is it for maintenance management?

Just as APQP offers benefits to manufacturing processes and helps improve product quality a similar set of activities can help maintenance managers and supervisors improve maintenance practices and maintenance quality. Ultimately maintenance service quality is measured or identified by your end users or customers. As a maintenance department you may prevent many equipment breakdowns and be very successful in having most equipment function well past its planned life. However, even a few major equipment breakdowns that have wide impact on say the manufacturing plant or your facility (e.g. a HVAC system not working for days) or an inability to have some equipment run as expected (e.g. a HVAC system not heating or cooling the building properly) will create an impression of poor maintenance services. This is why a process like APQP which focuses on measuring quality based on customer feedback and using that to improve can help maintenance departments work better and deliver more customer satisfaction.

Translating APQP phases to maintenance management:

  1. Plan and Define Program: Understand your customer or end user’s needs and expectations. For example in a manufacturing operation you should have a good idea of the production plans, deadlines and quality requirements. In a hospitality or other facility you should have an idea of critical periods (e.g. major events, short staff issues, etc.), what customers want and do not want and items that management deems important (e.g. expected occupancy rates, complaints rates, etc).
  2. Product Design and Development: Based on your customer or end user needs that you have collected previously you should be able to identify equipment or facilities are critical and what expectations are of those assets. So in a manufacturing operation you will know which machinery is critical and can hold up the entire production and product deliveries if it fails, equipment problems that result in quality problems and so on. In a commercial facility you would know when certain equipment or facilities should be operating properly e.g. a HVAC system in a conference hall is critical because of a major scheduled event.
  3. Process Design and Development Verification: Here you design your maintenance plan that gives priority to critical assets and their maintenance needs. You identify the most critical tasks, you schedule preventive maintenance on important equipment before critical periods, you make sure to have spares & supplies on hand to fix common breakdowns of these equipment and so on.
  4. Product and Process Validation and Production Feedback: Here you attempt to validate the processes you have put together by doing trial runs, entering information in your maintenance management system and seeing how well you will be able to meet the plan. The CMMS software can be used to look at future work order schedules based on preventive maintenance activities you have planned. You can see if you will be over loaded or be short staffed at critical times, possibly run out of important spares and so on.
  5. Feedback, Assessment & Corrective Action: This is where you collect feedback from customers, end users and other stakeholders and evaluate the effectiveness of your maintenance plans and processes. Based on this you would repeat the previous steps as needed to create a continuous improvement.

We can see that APQP offers useful ideas that can be implemented to improve maintenance management. Maintenance planners and supervisors can utilize these ideas to develop processes that increase satisfaction among their customers – both internal & external. To learn more about APQP and the processes involved you can see a good presentation on APQP by Pankaj Nalwa. Applying these ideas while keeping track of items like your key maintenance statistics can go a long way to improve satisfaction with the maintenance department.

CMMS software can help with this process:

As explained earlier your maintenance management software can be used to help you put together a good maintenance plan. You can also use it to estimate preventive maintenance workloads for the future as well as look back at how you have done in the past. If you are looking at getting maintenance software for your organization you should have a look at the CMMS Selection Guide we have put together. It contains several useful tips and criteria you can use to find the right product for your needs.

Free CMMS Software Selection Guide


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