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Episode 23 – AS9100 – AS9120 – How the Aerospace Industry is Different

AS9100 consultants

AS9100 – AS9120 – How the Aerospace Industry is Different

Join us in this engaging podcast episode as host Xavier Francis sits down with ISO experts Suzanne Weber-Smatko and Bruce Newman. Delve into the intricate world of the AS9100 standards, where they unravel the unique attributes of AS9100/9120. Discover how AS 9100/9120’s laser focus on product safety, operational risks, and stringent supplier controls sets it apart in the aerospace sector.

Core Business Solutions publishes ISO Certification podcast episodes weekly. You can find more episodes here.


Episode 23 Key Content

Hello, everyone, and thanks for listening to the Quality Hub chatting with ISO experts. I’m your host, and we have two wonderful guests for you today. First, we have the manager of consulting services here at CORE. Next, we have a consultant here at Core Business Solutions. Great to have both of you with us today.


Glad to be here.

Awesome. Today, we will be talking about the aerospace industry and how its standard AS 9100 9120 differs from ISO 9001. But first, let’s hear from and about their experience and histories.

Well, I guess I’ll go first. So I’ve been in quality for a little over 30 years. And 20 plus of those years I’ve been in aerospace, both in a quality role and a supplier performance role.

That’s great. How about you?

Well, I’m about the same. Over 30 years of experience in quality and quite a few years working with aerospace companies as a consultant and a customer.

Well, this is great and we’re so glad to have both of you here again. You have been on before, but not together. And let’s dive right into our first question. What are the primary objectives of AS 9100 9120 versus ISO 9001?

AS 9100 is specifically designed for businesses in the aerospace industry. You know, 9001 can be used by any business or any industry to implement a quality management system. The AS 9100 features additional requirements related to product safety, operational risks, and different controls on your suppliers with flowing down certain terms and conditions. But I think we’ll talk about that a little bit more later on.

Yes, I think we will.

Both standards share a focus on quality management and continuous improvement. By meeting the requirements of either one of these standards, the intent is that businesses can demonstrate their commitment to providing high-quality products and services. The primary difference is focusing on the risks and a good product realization process from start to finish. From the time that you get a contract to the time that you ship your products and beyond. But there’s a focus on having a perfect, robust product realization process.

Okay. Do you have anything to add to that?

Well, just that the basic requirements are still there for repeatable processes. Continual improvement, risk mitigation, informing product and customer satisfaction. It just goes a little deeper in the details.

All right. So they are similar, but AS 9100 has some additional requirements, like Suzanne said, and more. And we’re looking at similarities with what Bruce said, repeatable processes. So, what are the main differences between ISO 9001 and AS 91 9120? And what do these differences matter for companies in the aerospace industry?

Well, as you would expect, there is a huge focus on safety and ethics in aerospace standards. It’s called out in all the standards. Safety and ethics are important. Obviously, in any quality management system, there’s more of a focus and more of a requirement for pushing safety and ethics even out to your vendors with aerospace. There are some requirements to ensure the safety of workers and end users.

And your product evaluation, design inspections, and such. And it also calls out safety and ethical training as a requirement not just for the organization, but for their vendors. Another difference is that ISO 9001 focuses on the root cause of problems and corrective actions in processes. AS 9100 and 9120 both allow for employee error as a potential root cause for corrective actions. And there’s quite a bit more emphasis on traceability.

Traceability is left to the if it’s a customer requirement in 9001 then then it’s a requirement. Otherwise, you’re allowed to exclude it. With aerospace traceability, a requirement, you have to keep track of raw materials used in end products, and manpower associated with any assembly or manufacturing.

Okay. Do you have anything to add there?

Yeah. I would add, just to emphasize what Bruce said, is a lot of the things that I see with aerospace customers is that they don’t realize that they must have that traceability to calibrated gauges in what product was measured with calibrated gauges.

For example, if you have a non-conformance that has escaped your facility, you have to be able to determine what gauges were used to measure that particular product and have a containment process in place. So you have to be able to positively recall any product that was used with outdated calibration or something that had failed calibration.

So that we have more documentation of all because you need to know where things are going as well.

Yeah. A good way to implement that is to recommend to customers that they come up with a way to have operators record on their inspection documentation what gauge their ID or serial number on that gauge be added to that inspection records. You know, having no traceability is worse than having to go through maybe 500 inspection records to find out what product was inspected with that.

Additionally, the raw materials, right? You have to have traceability to the incoming raw materials to what it was used on. So if you had a supplier issue, you can positively recall or identify what batches might have come in to the supplier that went into your product. So traceability needs to be there as well. Also, from a documentation point of view, I would say your purchasing terms and conditions are also different.

Some specific terms and conditions are required for AS 9100 to be flowed down to your suppliers. Just a couple of examples. Right of entry. Counterfeit Parts program. A product change. The suppliers, you have certain controls on them. They should notify you of certain things. Right? If counterfeit parts are suspected.

You should be following the terms and conditions that they have a program. Not only that they have a program, but they should notify you within 24 to 48 hours of any suspect parts. So some specific terms and conditions are specifically required to be flowed down to suppliers. That is different than ISO 9001.

Well, this all seems understandable. I mean, as far as aerospace companies, they’re dealing with products that are they require a high level of safety and functionality for end users. If something is not within spec or even counterfeit, it could cause a catastrophic failure and that could lead to serious injury or death in some cases. That’s pretty understandable why we would need such traceability to know where that problem started. So moving on, what specific requirements does AS 9100 9120 have that are not included in ISO 9001? And how do companies meet those requirements?

Well, the primary focus of these additional requirements or expectations is back to what I said before the product realization, measurement, analysis, and improvement sections of AS 9100. In these sections, you’ll find different demands placed on key aspects critical to aerospace and defense. Employees and vendors must be made aware of certain things, right? How they contribute to product or service conformity, what their contribution is to product safety, and the importance of ethical behavior. All of that should be part of your onboarding. Or at a certain frequency.

What about you?

Yeah. I’ll touch on a few of the more significant ones that are fairly specific to the AS standards. Configuration management is one. A lot of the companies we work with, machine shops and assembly plants, and stuff like that configuration management is a big deal. You have to build to the right design level and quite often aircraft. It’s been in the air for years.

Oh my gosh. Yes. I mean…

Yeah, decades even. So there are plenty of design changes that have to be kept up with for each iteration of the aircraft as it evolves. So that’s a big deal. Counterfeit parts management is another intriguing one because the counterfeiters have become very adept at what they do. And I’ve seen presentations by the Department of Defense where they showed two identical-looking parts.

But when you X-ray them, there are electronic components with internal PCBs, and printed circuit boards that you wouldn’t be able to see. I mean, they’re sealed. But under X-ray, you can see that one has a clear, distinct tracing of an electrical past, and the other ones are very poorly done. And you can see an easy opportunity there for short circuits and that kind of thing. But the longevity would be suspect.

Which, again, could lead to something terrible. You know, and especially when you’re dealing with defense or something that doesn’t work.

Yeah, well, you know what they say. When you’re in an airplane, you can’t pull over to the side and change a tire, right?

That’s right. Who is an engine or something that’s not working?

Yeah. And another thing, as far as recall goes, a good recall process and good traceability are good for the business, not just to protect the customer, but also to protect your bottom line, because recalls are expensive. So the better traceability you have, the better opportunity to limit a recall to specifically what you know is no good and not just go pulling in everything from the field. The last thing I’d say is for object control, that’s probably something that could apply in a lot of industries outside of aerospace. Body armor.

Yeah. Body armor.

When body armor gets sewed together, you could, you know, there’s all kind of like, sewing needles and stuff that can get stuck inside there. So foreign object control, you know, is a good thing.

It seems that there’s a focus on product conformance, safety, and even the equipment used in manufacturing and measuring. And that makes sense because of the criticality of all of the things that are being made. It’s not just for the result. It’s like, do you want to, as somebody who’s building something, have to recall twice as many things because you don’t have the traceability to know, okay, it was only in this batch,

Oh, it could become expensive.

Oh yeah. Now, what does AS 9100 9120 provide additional value to aerospace companies beyond the basic requirements? We talked a little bit about safety and all of that, but what’s the additional value?

Probably one of the big ones is just establishing the culture. When you get right down to it, you know, aircraft safety goes right down to the nuts and bolts, rivets, everything. So so we can’t we can’t say that, you know, just the engine is important. Each piece is in there. So there’s so many there’s so many companies that contribute to the manufacture of aircraft and included in this, you know, are things like NASA, right?

Well, it’s aerospace, so it’s not just airplanes.

Yeah. So it’s pretty broad. It’s pretty broad. Well, a lot of companies, make a product that can be used outside of aerospace. So when they open up the aerospace market by getting the required AS 9100 certification, they can double their business for, you know, they can greatly increase the bottom line. And part of that is the fact that there is a database called Oasis, which has which lists all the certified AS 9100 9120 companies.

This makes you visible to anybody and looking for items that you may produce. It also gives the members visibility to any problems that AS companies have if they fail a certification, or if they have non-conformance, all this stuff is out there for the world to see. So if you’re a great company, it’s a huge advantage if you’re not doing so well, well, it gives everybody else a chance to see where the where the problems are.


It’s essentially an approved supplier list for aerospace vendors. As Bruce mentioned, it can also highlight or make visible the not-so-good suppliers out there who are having quality escapes. It’s really good that there’s a tool out here that you can use if you’re looking for an aerospace provider or supplier.

Going back a step, I know Bruce said something about, you know, it’s not just airplanes that are Internet satellite-based, whether you like them or not. Elon Musk and the whole, you know, putting all of these satellites and think about the price of that, if you if something fails as you’re launching a satellite. I mean, we likely saw that with the Hubble years and years ago. Get up there and the things out of focus, you know, because something wasn’t done right. So that is critical when you’re dealing with that beyond just the safety.

But I mean, the amount of expense some of these things can be, too. So basically, you got both positive and negative when it comes to the value. You get an oasis and if you’ve got a good track record, great. If not, you’re still able to see ones that maybe you don’t want to work with and that that certainly can be a good thing, that you don’t get hooked up with somebody who’s not taking care of the things they should be shows the companies accountability or lack thereof. When it comes to that, do either one of you have any stories, or do both of you where aerospace is they’ve gotten an AS 9100 9120 and it’s helped grow their company.

Yeah, I have. And some of my colleagues would probably laugh about this, but I always talk about the good product realization process, right? There is a company that I had worked for or was associated with in the past that there was a product that was supposed to be made out of one alloy, but it was made out of a different alloy. We reviewed the purchase order. The wrong material specification was entered into the system.

It was ordered wrong. It was made wrong. It was shipped wrong. And by the time you knew it, legal had to get involved. And there were accruals that we had to do to cover ourselves. Thankfully, the material we used had a different higher tensile strength than higher strength of material than the material it was supposed to be made out of. But, you know, when we got down to the root cause, it’s it was the process. I mean, we had a contract review process that depended on one person. And if that one person made a mistake,

Which humans do?

Which humans do? There was no oversight to validate. So we wound up having a quality-engineered engineering systematic check that if the materials didn’t match, it wouldn’t allow you to place a purchase order. And that was our permanent fix. But it was there were parts in the sky and, you know, thankfully it wasn’t a…

That was negative about them, but it gave them a chance to learn and do it right.

For me, it was a big learning experience in terms of how robust a contract review process needs to be when it comes down to critical characteristics that are on your blueprints or your customer purchase orders.

Bruce, do you have anything?

Well, I don’t know of any AS certifications that haven’t resulted in more business for the companies. That’s that’s the whole point of getting into it. But I do have an interesting story. One of the companies I worked with made, of course, everybody that goes on airplanes now uses the airplane wifi right to watch movies and whatever. So these guys make the antenna that collects the wifi signal on the aircraft.

So when I was driving up to the place, I saw an interesting structure out in front of their building and came to find out that what they would do was test these items. They would build the pod that holds the antenna, and it’s the structure that sits outside the plane and fires frozen turkeys against it that like five or 600 miles an hour to see if it held up or not.

They also used, you know, thawed turkeys. Well, I think they thought first, but they shoot turkeys at aircraft windshields and such to test them. But I got to see the mechanism. So that was kind of interesting to me. I never got to see a turkey shoot. But it was just to see the structure and everything.

I was blessed enough to work for an OEM and saw they went to maintenance classes for four engines and saw some of that testing going on. And it is neat to see. But if there is ever an aha moment, you know when you go through that experience the aha moment is when you realize, wow, there’s so much that goes into this and so much reliability on people’s ethics, their quality management systems do it right.

It does show the importance of it and also why you make sure you can meet all those requirements that are more stringent, but also why they’re so stringent. Well, this is great. I do appreciate you both talking to me today. You know, I think this has been valuable for some of our customers who may be considering venturing into the AS realm or maybe they aren’t certified yet and they need to be excused for some things they’ve got to think about. Appreciate you both being here.

Thank you.

My pleasure. Hope we were helpful.

Absolutely. I want to thank everyone who’s listened to our podcast today. We hope that has been informative for you. Now, if you haven’t already followed us on your favorite podcast platform, be sure to do so. And that way you won’t miss the next Quality podcast when it’s released next week. Thanks again. Have a great day.