What automotive quality means and why you can’t afford to cut corners
You’re an automotive parts manufacturer who supplies electronics subsystems to major automakers. Your customers want top performance but with the lowest power consumption, high volume but with five nines of quality. The tougher part is they won't take your word on it, they're demanding production part approval process (PPAP) qualified parts, and they want them at rock-bottom prices. It's enough to give a purchasing manager a migraine.
You wonder if maybe you could get away with delivering a PPAP module that doesn't necessarily use top-to-bottom PPAP-qualified components. After all, you trust your processes and you trust your supplier. If you choose really high-quality standard-run parts, you could still deliver good performance and save some money. What would it hurt?
It's a tempting idea, but the reality is that there is a distinct difference between PPAP-qualified parts and standard-run parts in terms of quality and reliability. That small short-term savings you're trying to accrue could prove immensely costly in the long run if those differences manifest themselves as failures at your end customer.
The automotive industry is fed by a sprawling, complex supply chain consisting of thousands of vendors on every continent. To ensure quality, performance, and safety of the end product, industry associations have developed multiple standards including the International Automotive Task Force’s ISO/TS 16949, the Automotive Electronics Council’s AEC Q100, and the Automotive Industry Action Group’s PPAP. ISO/TS16949 specifies quality systems requirements with a focus on consistency and preventing defects. AEC Q100 establishes common part-qualification and quality-system standards for automotive electronics. PPAP defines consistent manufacturing and approval processes to ensure that suppliers understand automaker specifications and consistently deliver parts that meet the requirements of their customers. Today, most automakers call out one or more of these standards in their supply contracts, with the expectation that the parts will comply top-to-bottom to deliver the performance manufacturers expect.
To clarify why achieving that level of performance requires top-to-bottom compliance, let's take a closer look at what goes into the production of an automotive-grade device. At Spansion, we rigorously control materials, manufacturing processes, and testing to deliver standard-run parts with failure rates below 100 PPM/100 FIT. In comparison, our automotive-grade parts demonstrate failure rates of less than 10 PPM and less than 10 FIT. Our dedicated team has established much tighter process control exclusively for these components, certified to AEC Q100, PPAP, and ISO/TS 16949. An enhanced testing program ensures we meet the quality and reliability targets.
Our automotive parts program includes other special services. Customers hold right of approval over product changes and any alteration to fabrication, assembly, and test, mark and pack processes. They receive priority problem resolution and priority shipping, as well as enhanced notice for end-of-life notifications. The entire program is crafted around ensuring that the customer receives an uninterrupted, unaltered stream of parts that will perform to the highest level. Yes, these extra layers of control do introduce a cost differential, but the result is parts that will deliver the performance your customers expect—and we have the data to back it up.
For our top-tier customers, even this good isn't good enough. When we deliver lots tested to 5 PPM or even 3 PPM, they want to know what we're doing to improve, because they recognize that their reputations are on the line. Contrast that with the temptation to use a standard part and you see the difference. The difference becomes even more obvious in the event that one of those standard-run parts fails in your PPAP module and you have to explain to the automaker that you were trying to cut corners. Safeguard your reputation and your customer relationships—insist on automotive grade parts.
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