“In the aviation, space and defense industries, quality, product safety and on-time delivery are paramount. The major original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) work with a global supply-chain made up of manufacturers and distributors, which includes thousands of small businesses. To ensure quality, safety and on-time delivery of the millions of components, assemblies, and software that make up the aircraft, vehicles and other OEM systems used in the field, the AS9100 standard has been developed.”
— Scott Dawson, President, Core Business Solutions
Developed by the International Aerospace Quality Group, AS9100 is a global quality standard that sets requirements for processes related to safety, products, and performance in the aviation, space, and defense industries. Largely based on the ISO 9001 standard, it is designed specifically to be utilized by manufacturing and service companies within the aerospace sector, and satisfies DOD, NASA, and FAA quality requirements. The standard includes the addition of requirements related to work transfers, prevention and detection of counterfeit parts, control of critical items, monitoring of external providers, stringent production process protocols, and prevention and detection of foreign objects.
All managers and employees need to be involved in the implementation of the AS9100 quality management system (QMS) requirements and will work together to prepare for a third-party audit that will confirm the company’s compliance with the standards requirements.
AS9100 provides benefits to companies of all sizes and, especially in the aerospace field.
As a globally-minded business, you will find value in the following areas of excellence:
Increased Productivity and Operational Efficiency
By evaluating and streamlining processes with a goal of consistent quality, you will create processes that, when followed by all members of your team, will improve how quickly and consistently you can produce a quality result. In the evaluation of your business during the preparation process, you may find ways to produce products at a lower cost or reduced scrap and reworks, both of which can save your company money. The focus on continual improvement will allow this finding of saving on time and money to be carried out long-term. Additionally, as you put systems in place, you will position your company to identify and address issues before they turn into problems that affect your output.
Improved Customer Satisfaction and Stakeholder Relationships
When you focus on creating a better process to produce a better product, your customers will certainly take notice. By evaluating the areas of your business that impact your customers, and by working to improve those areas, your customers will see your dedication to them and their success, and will in turn continue (or even increase) their business with you.
Likewise, your stakeholders will see the effort you are putting into ensuring the quality and integrity of your business, proving that you care about the continued success of your efforts. Everyone – from your employees to your suppliers to your investors – will recognize your desire to comply with an internationally-recognized QMS.
Boosted Business Opportunities
By meeting such a high standard, you are sending a message to potential customers that you have what it takes to meet their needs. With access to a wider range of global markets, you will increase your marketability and find opportunities for new business in the aerospace and defense industry. Since many manufacturers, suppliers, and distributors only do business with other companies that meet the AS9100 standard, you’ll gain access to big-name partners who may be facing a challenge in finding a partner that fits the bill – you will, and they’ll thank you for it.
Reduced Negative Outcomes to Risk
As with all ISO standards, AS9100 will involve the evaluation of risks assumed by your business and will encourage risk-based thinking to help you develop and implement best practices for approaching risk. In the aerospace industry, it is crucial to be able to anticipate and address risk head on in order to continually improve process quality and product traceability, and improve safety.
Enhanced Organizational Knowledge
Informed employees are happy employees, and as you work to develop your QMS within the AS9100 standard, your entire team will be involved in determining the best practices for your company. That means that everyone will have the opportunity to participate in the development of training for the roles required to produce your product or service. Once the best practices have been developed, they will be communicated throughout your organization, ensuring that your team has the proper training and information to do their jobs correctly. Records and documentation required by the standard ensure the knowledge will be retained and protected.
To successfully meet AS9100, your organization must comply with all requirements set forth by the standard.
Much like ISO 9001, the development of the context of your business is a vital first step in developing your QMS. Economic factors, changing technology and workforces, and trends in your industry can all impact your company, and the way those factors influence the risk and opportunities your business will face must be managed and planned for.
In addition to context, you will have to develop the scope of your QMS (which products or facets of your business are included and regulated by your QMS), a quality policy, and quality goals and key process that impact your deliverable.
All of this must be determined and lead by your executive management team. Auditors find it vital that the QMS system is implemented via a top-down approach, so it is imperative that your entire leadership team be on-board and as involved as possible in the implementation of the program.
Working together with your entire team of employees, you will develop and document a working Quality Management System that helps control how processes are performed in your business. It will have to include system requirements from all regulatory authorities, and will require high levels of communication to keep your team engaged and working in the same direction.
The process approach is key to understanding and complying with the AS9100 standard. By defining key business processes and monitoring their performance, you are able to make improvements when the end result (your product or service) does not meet your quality goals. Your process includes all of the steps in the lifecycle of your deliverable, and should be evaluated by examining inputs and outputs of each step of the process and how they interact with each other.
Included in your QMS will be proof of planning, support, and resources related to the success of your QMS. Purposeful planning should be documented as an ongoing activity to achieve intended quality results, and proof of the support and resources will also need to be outlined. Resources include people, documents, records, infrastructure, and measuring resources suitable to your organization.
Similar to ISO 9001, none of this should be approached without the customer in mind. As the end user of your product or service, your customers are the ones who are impacted to the highest degree by your QMS. Build an understanding of their needs and wants, and then proactively work to meet and exceed their expectations at every point in your process. This should be the backbone of your QMS, and the quality of your deliverable as seen by your customer is the biggest test of the success of your system.
Crucial to the aerospace sector, control of operations will also be addressed within the development of your QMS. AS9100 includes additional steps to safeguard your products based on the risks of your operational processes. These additional controls are vital due to the potential consequences of failure in these high-risk industries. You will address configuration management, product safety, counterfeit parts prevention, work transfers management, and special requirements, critical items, and key characteristics of areas of high-risk.
Once your system has been developed and implemented, you will be subject to a third-party audit for performance evaluation and improvement suggestions. The effectiveness of your system should be tested by monitoring, measurement, analysis, and internal assessment, and will be subject to internal audits and management reviews prior to the registrar’s evaluation. Be sure to address nonconformities and nonconforming outputs by taking corrective action to eliminate root cause of issues, and be committed to continual improvement, even after the audit is complete.
While the AS9100 standard has been developed for companies in the aerospace and defense sector, it is important to note that there are other standards that may be better suited for your business. For example, the AS9120 standard must be used by parts distributors seeking certification. Likewise, you may find value in certification to a number of other standards, including but not limited to 14001 (environmental), 45001 (health and safety), or 27001 (information security).
Link to ISO 9001
Perhaps the biggest change to AS9100 (and a factor that definitely ties it to ISO 9001) is the new ten-part structure, which directly mimics that of the original, more globally accessible quality standard. The similar structure makes it easy for companies to achieve ISO 9001 certification at the same time they pursue AS9100. Both standards put a large amount of emphasis on risk and planning for the addressing of business and organizational risk in many forms.
AS9100 includes many of the same factors already discussed above:
Context of the Organization
AS9100 embraces the concepts of ISO 9001 and expands them, adding additional requirements pertaining to counterfeit parts and product safety. Risk is even more highly regarded in the AS9100 standard, and companies are required to place more significant consideration on how risks can impact their deliverables.
The full list of additions to the AS9100 standard are as follows:
Operational risk management
Prevention and detection of counterfeit parts
Product quality and on-time delivery objectives
Key process performance indicators (KPIs)
Planning of product lifecycle
Control of critical items/key characteristics
Control of external processes and providers
Monitoring of external providers
More stringent production process controls
Prevention and detection of foreign objects (FOD)
The AS9100:2016 (AS9100D) standard is quickly becoming a sought-after certification for signing contracts and new customers. As mentioned before, the potential for negative impacts related to poor quality are highly concerning in the Aviation, Space & Defense sector. Achieving certification proves your customers, future partners, and industry that you have evaluated the risks your business may face and implemented a Quality Management System that ensures positive outcomes.