The most recent in a series of Quality Management Systems (QMS), AS9100D was designed to reflect the unique quality requirements facing the aerospace industry. It serves to provide a universal standard for manufacturers looking to do business in the industry and to account for the requirements not satisfied by ISO9000/ISO9100. The standard originated in response to the inability of ISO9001 to properly satisfy the requirements of the major customers in the industry, both military and civilian. By providing a single, unified standard, companies no longer had to make their own standards to fit the needs of a complex industry and could focus on delivering products meeting the specifications in a timely fashion.
The History of Aerospace QMS
The history of development in QMS in the aerospace industry is complicated, reflecting an industry with a lengthy and complex supply chain. With customers including the U.S. Department of Defense, the FAA, NASA, and commercial manufacturers like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Pratt & Whitney, the aerospace industry represents a wealth of opportunity for parts manufacturers around the world that can deliver quality products at various points in the supply chain.
When it became clear that ISO9001 would not fit the stringent requirements of the aerospace industry in terms of delivering highly specific parts in a timely fashion, companies began to introduce their own quality initiatives that could work in tandem with ISO9001 and deliver the required quality. Boeing’s D1-9000 was the most notable example, but the introduction of AS9000 made it obsolete; changing ISO9001 to reflect the requirements of the industry made a standard that could work more broadly in a highly technical field.
The AS9100 standard has continued to evolve, matching the changing needs and growing expectations of the global, multi-billion-dollar aerospace industry, with stricter controls being placed on manufacturers to minimize late delivery or delivery of sub-par products. The standard continues to respond to the needs of the industry, making it crucial for any company that wishes to be a supplier for the one of the most lucrative fields in American manufacturing.
The Importance of Obtaining AS9100 Certification
After the last passage, the benefit of certification is obvious; compliance with AS9100 has become a necessary stepping stone for manufacturers who wish to supply products in the aerospace industry. The recent changes to the standard were established to address the manufacturers who were delivering shoddy products and putting manufacturers behind schedule. With the change from AS9100B to AS9100C, there is an increased focus on quality assurance at multiple points in the process as well as on the minimization of risk, leading to delivery of satisfactory product in a timely fashion.
With that said, companies operating in the global aerospace supply chain are much less likely to do business with companies that do not have up to date certification, as the controls will be less strict and there is a significantly increased risk of defective parts leading to adverse product events. In a complicated supply chain, any incidental delays along the way can lead to difficulties delivering products on time, and major manufacturers working on multi-billion dollar deliverables contracts will do anything possible to avoid delays.
The adoption of the AS9100 standards and certification gives your aerospace customer confidence when purchasing from you = they trust that you have taken the necessary steps to assure the quality of your products.
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Benefits of Obtaining AS9100 Certification
Manufacturers who wish to sell parts in the aerospace industry can derive sufficient practical and business benefits from AS9100 certification to offset the AS9100 certification cost.
Many organizations choose to implement an AS9100 certification program as a result of market pressures – organizations within the aerospace industry prefer to do business with companies that maintain an AS9100 certification, and compliance with the standard increases the confidence of your customers that you will supply quality products. Manufacturers often find that their target customers require suppliers to maintain AS9100 certification as a prerequisite for doing business.
Adherence to a recognized quality standard is not simply an industry gate-keeping mechanism. Organizations who adopt the AS9100 quality standard will also benefit from increases in productivity and operational efficiency as the time-tested QMS requirements are implemented throughout the manufacturing process. AS9100 includes the general quality requirements of ISO 9001:2015, along with specific additional requirements that are relevant to the aviation, space and defense industries.
Engineering for aerospace applications necessitates highly specialized product design, and customers expect laser-marked aerospace parts to last for a substantial length of time, sometimes under high-stress conditions. The quality controls put in place by AS9100 help to standardize the design and development of parts to account for those needs. AS9100 helps organizations improve the consistency of their products through the establishment of quality standards, regular measurement of product quality and corrective and preventive actions.
The implementation of AS9100 will require retraining employees to meet the adjusted standards, but the transition between ISO 9001 and AS9100 is relatively straightforward—the latter contains all the same requirements as ISO 9001:2015, with any added requirements being explicitly described.
What is the AS9100 Certification Cost?
The costs of getting AS9100 certified will depend on a couple of factors and will need to be looked at along two vectors; the obvious economic costs and the cost of labor for implementation. Both of these factors will depend on the size of the company and on the already implemented QMS that the company has. If the company already has a good quality system in place, the difficulty of transitioning is drastically decreased; if the new system can be implemented in-house without the help of an outside consultant, the cost becomes even lower.
The first step is to have a registration audit completed, which will help to understand the ways in which a companies’ system will need to change to accommodate for AS9100. A small company with a good quality system (ISO 9001-compliant) already in place and the resources and capacity to implement AS9100 in-house might pay less than a thousand dollars and require less than a week’s time—a promising investment if a company is looking to sell parts for the aerospace industry.
Starting with no system in place or requiring the help of outside consultants will increase the costs of the project, both economically and in terms of required labor hours, so be clear that this is the right direction for your company before you decide to implement an entirely new system.
Looking to the Future: The Importance of AS9100 Compliance Going Forward
The importance of certification if a company wants to do business in the industry right now is obvious; aerospace manufacturers and suppliers around the world require compliance to the AS9100 standard for doing business. Given the evolution of the standard that has been seen since the release of AS9000 in 1997, it seems clear that the standard will continue to evolve to fit the changing needs of the industry. There is no reason to suspect that that will cease to be the case, so implementing the standard now in order to find a foothold in the industry will help any company to find their place.
Certification will continue to be a crucial part of operating within the industry, so companies looking to operate therein will need to follow the guidelines, especially with the fact that the standard continues to change to reflect the growing needs of the industry. AS9100 is the industry standard and as long as it continues to properly accommodate industry demand, it will continue to be the standard—any company looking to operate in the industry will need to attain certification, and the AS9100 certification cost is easily justified by the lucrative opportunities in the aerospace sector.
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Aerospace manufacturing and supply is a complex global industry, and the many moving pieces and lengthy supply chains necessitate a quality standard that can consistently deliver the consistency in products that manufacturers expect. AS9100 is that standard, and it has become a staple part of operating within the aerospace field.
Demand for quality, longevity, and specificity in produced pieces precipitated the development of a standard that could accommodate those demands. AS9100 is a universally accepted standard that signifies the quality of both the materials produced and their delivery.