The world of car production has its own language, often wrapped up in natty acronyms, designed to confuse normal people. Here’s an idiots guide to some of the more common terminology:


8D – A problem solving method, originating from Ford. The ‘D’ stands for disciplines; the 8 of which starts with plan and ends with congratulate, assuming you ever get to the bottom of the cock-up.

APQP – Advanced Product Quality Planning is a snappy acronym invented by the big three (Ford, GM and that other one), the aim of which is “to produce a product quality plan which will support development of a product or service that will satisfy the customer”. Did I warn you that the geeky bits of this article are quite dull?

Body in White – The body of a car before painting or assembly has taken place. There was a Jaguar version of this phrase; on visiting their Browns Lane plant in Coventry I once witnessed a batch of unpainted XJ-S bodies sat outside in the rain and was told they were ‘body in shite’.

BOM – Bill of Materials. A shopping list of bits needed to build your vehicle. Like a new recipe, there’s often something important missing that you don’t spot until serving up. [There was a Jamie Oliver joke here that we were instructed to remove by a lawyer.]

DFSS – Design For Six Sigma. This is a set of methodology related to Six Sigma. It is not to be confused with DFS, the ‘buy now offer ends Monday’ sofa warehouse chain situated in Darley Dale, Measham, Droitwich and Grantham.

FEA – Finite Element Analysis. The use of a very expensive bit of software that requires regular and cripplingly expensive updates to produce molecular level analysis of products. In pretty colours.

FMEA – Failure Modes Effects Analysis. Originally designed by the military FMEA is a complex technique for failure analysis. FMEA analysis can relate to design, function or process.

ISO – International Organization of Standardization. There is an ISO standard for almost everything. The German arm of ISO is DIN, Deutsches Institut für Normung, with overly-officious standards probably written by the kind of people my Grandad used to enjoy shooting at.

ISIR – Initial Sample Inspection Report. A VW and BMW flavoured version of PPAP.

MRP – Materials Requirements Planning. This is a planning, scheduling and inventory system, first used by Black & Decker.

MSA – Measurement Systems Analysis. This is an experiment designed to identify the components of variation of a measurement. Often conducted by humourless chaps in lab coats who won’t let you touch their stuff, no matter how interesting it looks.

NVH – Noise Vibration and Harshness. A very important subject in the automotive world. Companies benchmark cars they have in development against class leaders. NVH measurements are made using sophisticated equipment strapped to test vehicles driving over cobbled test tracks, or sometimes some poor unfortunate simply gets strapped into a car boot with a microphone and driven around for hours listening for squeaks.

Pareto Analysis – A bar graph that looks at all the reported problems and helps identify which problem is most severe and should be addressed first. Named after 1991 world snooker champion, John Parrot, perhaps.

PPAP – Production Part Approval Process. A 19 element process designed to ensure suppliers can reliably meet the requirements of supplying a part that meets the car manufacturer’s expectations. This is related to the car salesman’s acronym TADTS, standing for they all do that, sir. One reason they don’t change shonky bits in production is because PPAPs are so very expensive to produce.

R@R – Run At Rate. A calculation to determine the output rate of a production line. Probably also something to do with cricket.

SCM – Supply Chain Management. They’ll try to have you believe, using further acronyms, that there’s more to SCM than purchasing. But there’s not. It’s just purchasing. (To any automotive SCM types reading this; you might have had a fairer explanation of your work here had your fellow night creatures not sucked every last drop of profit from everything I ever did that they got their fangs into.)

Six Sigma – The six sigma goal for manufacturing is to drive quality to less than four defects per million parts built. The Wall Street Journal once estimated that nearly 60% of all corporate Six Sigma initiatives fail to yield the desired results. Probably because it’s far easier to say to a workforce “less than four defects per million, please, chaps” than it is to actually roll your sleeves up and achieve it.

SPC – Statistical Process Control. A method of quality control using statistical methods. Unless you occasionally used to ignore the worst of the results to make your graphs look prettier than they should (ahem: Rover Cowley).

SQE – Supplier Quality Engineer. The person who, when your product is cack, turns up and ensures you put it right. Japanese manufacturers employ roving teams who will reside in a supplier’s factory until any quality issues are resolved to their satisfaction. These people are ruthless and do not eat, sleep or blink.

TQM – Total Quality Management. A system to implement progressive improvements in quality.

TS 16949 – This is the document that defines the quality management systems and requirements for all products within the automotive engineering and manufacturing world. You can’t do business without it. Hooky Chinese outfits, such as the ‘Love you Longtime Lucky Ballbearing Company Ltd’, will have a photocopy of someone else’s TS 16949 certificate.


More motoring twaddle like this can be found in MotorPunk Magazine, a quarterly publication featuring a hefty slice of rotten exotica, budget motorsport and BL shonk, available direct from the publisher here.

About The Author

Rich Duisberg

Rich's drivel regularly appears in Practical Performance Car and GT Porsche magazines. He has also written for Classic & Sportscar, MogMag, Classic Performance and Retro, Banzai, Evo, and Modern Mini. He also did a book no-one bought. His hungover fizzog also often appears on CBS’s Carfection channel enthusing about historic motoring. Le Mans winner Derek Bell once refused to get in Rich's Morgan Three Wheeler with him at the wheel. Currently amongst the detritus in his garage is a 1972 Fiat 500 Abarth, a fat BMW and a Lotus Elise. Previous machinery includes a Porsche 968, an Alfa GTV V6 and a dreadful Sinclair C5. He also owns a vintage Royal Enfield pushbike.

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