Developed by international aerospace
industry leaders to satisfy DOD, NASA and FAA quality
AS9100 provides the standardization
that is missing from the numerous standards that aerospace
suppliers are currently required to meet and offers
the opportunity for aerospace companies to implement
a more effective, value-generating quality management
Representing the first international
effort to formulate a quality management system standard
for the aerospace industry, the two-year-old AS9100
is beginning to show its long-term value. The standard
supplements ISO 9001 by addressing the additional
expectations of the aerospace industry. Already, reports
along this complicated manufacturing chain attest
to—among other benefits—AS9100's contribution
to more consistent verification methods and fewer
Initially released in October 1999
by the Society of Automotive Engineers in the Americas
and the European Association of Aerospace Industries
in Europe, and shortly thereafter by standards organizations
in Japan and Asia, AS9100 was a cooperative effort
of the International Aerospace Quality Group. As such,
it combines and harmonizes requirements outlined in
the SAE's AS9000 and Europe's prEN9000-1 standards.
Recently, AS9100 was revised to align with ISO 9001:2000.
Separating "whats" from "how tos".
AS9100 defines additional areas
within an aerospace quality management system that
must be addressed when implementing an ISO 9001:2000-based
quality system. Typically, these requirements are
included within robust aerospace quality systems.
The industry experts who wrote the standard and the
representatives who approved it all agree that these
additions are essential to ensure product, process
and service safety and quality.
Although the standard outlines industry
"whats" for a quality management system,
the "how tos" were deliberately left out
and remain the system designers' responsibility. This
reflects the AS9100 writing team's, and my, belief
that how-to information stifles continuous improvement.
For example, regulatory requirements
are critical functions within the industry. The requirements
within AS9100 are complementary to contractual and
applicable law and regulations. Those implementing
a quality system compliant with AS9100 must ensure
that the additional requirements of their customers,
regulatory agencies (such as the FAA and the JAA)
and local, state and national laws are also referenced
within the system's documentation.
What’s different about AS
The AS9100 standard provides guidance for managing
variation when a "key characteristic" is
identified. Keys are features of a material, process
or part in which the variation has a significant influence
on product fit, performance, service life or manufacturability.
AS9100 requires that an organization establish and
document a configuration management process.
The AS9100 standard includes extensive
supplementation in design-and-development functions.
This isn't surprising given the complexity of aerospace
products and customers' expectations for reliable
performance during a protracted period of time. The
European prEN9000-1 standard provided many of these
additions. Both standards cover planning for design-and-development
activities and ensuring interim control points during
the design process. Design outputs are supplemented
to provide identification of key characteristics,
and the data essential for the product that will be
identified, manufactured, inspected, used and maintained
Managing suppliers throughout the aerospace supply
chain remains a major challenge for the industry.
The chain is very long, and within the supply base,
there are sources that serve multiple industries.
Because the industry is so dependent upon this supply
chain, it isn't surprising that AS9100 includes a
number of additional expectations for identifying
and maintaining suppliers. Supplier approval is just
one step in the process of managing suppliers.
But no element of supplier control
is more important than understanding that a supplier
is responsible for managing its suppliers and sub
tier suppliers. This includes performing special processes
that are frequently subcontracted to processing houses.
The supplier must use customer-approved sources; however,
ensuring that the processing is properly performed
is the supplier's responsibility.
Product safety and quality control
Manufacturing a product as sophisticated
as an airplane or space vehicle requires special attention
during the production processes. It's important, for
example, to ensure that the correct revision of the
engineering documentation is being used and documented
within the work instructions, and that work performance
is recorded. This frequently requires a specific reference
to the person performing the work. Controlling production
processes is essential to demonstrate that operations
have been correctly performed. This is especially
important when conducting special processes that don't
lend themselves to after-the-fact inspection techniques.
Aircraft are designed to perform for 50 years or more,
and properly maintaining the aircraft is essential
for continued safe operation. Thus, servicing requirements
are an important part of the total quality system.
These include maintenance and repair manuals as well
as the actual servicing work. Again, record-keeping
is important in documenting the work performed, the
equipment used and the people doing the work.
Detailed first-article inspections
are frequently performed to demonstrate product conformance
to engineering requirements. Documenting the actual
inspection and test results is an established method
of demonstrating initial item acceptance. The standard
provides general direction in this regard and suggests
that AS/EN/JISQ9102 be consulted for further guidance.
Another international aerospace standard, called AS9102
and developed by the IAQG, outlines a methodology
for performing and documenting first-article inspections.
When things don't go as planned,
AS9100 gives directions for controlling and disposing
nonconforming material. This includes specific requirements
for contacting the customer for authorization when
using or repairing a product that doesn't conform
to engineering requirements.
Who is getting registered to AS
More than 60 percent of IAQG members have implemented
the AS9100 standard internally and are flowing it
down to their suppliers. Most members will require
suppliers to comply with the updated version of AS9100
(which is aligned to ISO 9001:2000 and supercedes
older ISO 9000 standards) beginning in December 2003-04.
This is consistent with the transition from the old
ISO 9001 standard to the new version.
Organizations within the industry
differ in their compliance to AS9100 verification
requirements. Some use their own external auditors
to verify suppliers' quality management systems. Others
share the results of their quality system audits with
suppliers in the industry. Most provide suppliers
with copies of external audits. Most permit suppliers
to share the audit results with other customers, too.
The Federal Aviation Administration
has determined that AS9100 is "a comprehensive
quality standard containing the basic quality control/assurance
elements required by the current Code of Federal Regulations
(CFR), Title 14, Part 21." Both the U.S. Department
of Defense and NASA have reviewed the standard and
have published guidance material on using the standard
for contractual requirements.
As AS9100 becomes established within
the industry, the standard's benefits become apparent.
Two obvious ones are a reduction in multiple expectations
and a consistency in verification methodology. Both
prime manufacturers and their suppliers are pleased
with the results. Suppliers report a reduction in
verification audits and an increased consistency in
expectations. As a direct result, suppliers' customers
are seeing a reduction in oversight costs and an improvement
in supplier performance.