Acronyms Used in This Article
- AAQG—Americas Aerospace
- AECMA—European Association
of Aerospace Industries
- CFR—Code of Federal Regulations
- FAA—Federal Aviation Administration
- FAI—First Article Inspection
- FAR—Federal Acquisition
- IAQG—International Aerospace
- ISO—International Organization
- MRO—Maintenance, Repair
- NADCAP—National Aerospace
and Defense Contractors Accreditation Program
- NASA—National Aeronautics
& Space Administration
- OEM—Original Equipment
- SAE—Society of Automotive
Despite a depressed market,
the aerospace industry's coordination and cooperation efforts
are paying dividends. The joint efforts of the Americas
Aerospace Quality Group and the International Aerospace
Quality Group have produced five new quality management
systems and related standards for aerospace and associated
Following the October 1999 release of AS9100 by the Society
of Automotive Engineers and the European Association of
Aerospace Industries (AECMA), as well as related standards
in Asia, a significant improvement occurred in aerospace
suppliers' surveillance efficiency.
Originally, AS9100 combined and harmonized requirements
outlined in the SAE's AS9000 and AECMA's prEN9000-1 standards.
Following the release of ISO 9001:2000, AS9100 was revised
and strengthened to better align with the ISO 9001 revision,
and aerospace requirements were clarified.
Taking the complete life cycle of aerospace products into
consideration, IAQG members focused on the complexity and
diversity of the industry's supply chain and developed AS9110,
Quality Management Systems--Aerospace--Requirements for
Maintenance Organizations and AS9120, Quality Management
Systems--Aerospace--Requirements for Stockist Distributors
to complement AS9100. The SAE and other aerospace standards
entities will publish both standards before the end of this
AS9110 focuses on the maintenance, repair and overhaul
aspects of the aerospace business. Aircraft are designed
to perform for 50 years or longer, but properly maintaining
them is essential for continued safe operation. Thus, MRO
requirements are an important part of an aerospace product's
total life cycle. As more original equipment manufacturers
enter into maintenance agreements with their customers,
the same quality system aspects that prevail during manufacturing
must also be present when a product is serviced.
Although airlines currently use other organizations and
requirements to approve repair stations, OEMs believe that
AS9110 offers robust and comprehensive requirements that
can be applied to all levels of the MRO process. AS9110
complements the expanded use of ISO 9001 by major aerospace
repair stations worldwide and provides necessary guidance
for the Federal Aviation Administration's new requirements
that concur with recently published revisions to Federal
Acquisition Regulations Part 145.
AS9120 aims at the growing number of organizations that
deal directly with OEMs and accumulate aerospace materials
and products for resale. These distributors, or stockists,
add a vital service to the industry but can also affect
product performance if they fail to handle parts and materials
correctly or lose a part's chain of custody from the OEM
to the customer.
AS9120 also complements AS9100 and is planned for use
by OEMs (although it's available to anyone in the aerospace
supply chain). It's intended to replace SAE standard AS7103,
which is currently listed in the FAA's Advisory Circular
00-56, Voluntary Industry Distributor Accreditation Program.
This standard only applies to "pass through" distributors
(i.e., businesses that only accumulate and distribute parts
and materials rather than add value or work on the products
themselves). Value-added distributors are subject to the
appropriate requirements of AS9100.
Aerospace OEMs have developed fairly sophisticated and
advanced quality management systems during the past 40 years.
These have evolved because of increased product complexity
and a better understanding of systems integration. AS9100
defines areas within an aerospace quality management system
that are typically addressed when implementing an ISO 9001:2000-based
quality system. These additional requirements are normally
included within robust aerospace quality systems. As OEMs
engage more of the lower levels of the supply chain in the
complexities of production--even to delivering entire aircraft
or propulsion systems--the need to define aerospace quality
requirements becomes more acute. Industry experts responsible
for writing AS9100 are primarily OEMs, all of which have
agreed that these additions were essential to ensure the
safety and quality of products, processes and services.
AS9100 quality management systems are designed to meet
the specific needs of their users. Although AS9100 addresses
specific areas within the aerospace industry, businesses
that adopt the standard are encouraged to first establish
a robust quality system that's both effective and efficient.
The standards can then be tailored to the product or service
that's offered to the customer. Ideally, the systems should
oversee a holistic entity, with the many interlaced functions
and processes working together within the business to meet
the standards' requirements.
As an example, regulatory requirements are pervasive within
the aerospace industry, and these must harmonize with customer
needs. The requirements within AS9100 complement contractual
and applicable laws and regulations. Companies implementing
an AS9100-compliant quality system must ensure that the
additional requirements of their customers--as well as regulatory
agencies such as the FAA, FAR, and local, state, and national
laws--are referenced within the system's documentation.
Additionally, issues such as configuration management
(which is critical for after-market support of aerospace
products with 50-year life spans and beyond) must begin
in a product's design-and-development phase and continue
along the entire value stream, fulfilling the customer's
AS9100 includes several additions and clarifications to
many of the ISO 9001:2000 requirements, although it should
be noted that ISO 9001 provides the framework upon which
the aerospace standards are built. The industry's supplementations
and amplifications merely underscore its concerns with product
safety, reliability and maintenance. However, other expectations
relevant to the aerospace industry are outlined in the AS9100
standards. Some of these are codified in standards issued
by the SAE and its global counterparts and are based upon
existing best practices. These standards are referenced
in AS9100 to ensure that manufacturers meet industry expectations.
One such expectation is the control of key characteristics,
which are features of a material, process or part in which
variation has a significant influence on product fit, performance,
service life or manufacturability. AS9100 provides requirements
for managing variation when a key characteristic is identified.
These requirements crop up in Clause 7--Product Realization.
Because AS9100 describes--rather than prescribes--a quality
management system, the industry has created other documents
to amplify the requirements. AS9103, Variation Management
of Key Characteristics was published in October 2001. This
standard can be invoked as a customer requirement or used
as guidance material in support of Clause 7 requirements.
In either case, it highlights the importance that's placed
on specific characteristics of the materials, parts and
products in meeting safety, performance and quality objectives.
First-article inspection is another area that the industry
wanted to clarify. AS9100's Clause 126.96.36.199 requires organizations
to perform a first-article inspection at all levels of product
creation and then update the FAI with any changes. AS9100
lists AS9102, First Article Inspection Requirements, which
was published in August 2000, as a guidance document. Like
AS9103, AS9102 can be invoked as a stand-alone contractual
requirement. It provides absolute documentation to ensure
that an FAI process identifies conforming product at initial
production or provides corrective action for nonconforming
product. Currently, most OEMs require FAIs to be documented
on their own forms. AS9102 standardizes data requirements
and reporting formats to eliminate the "hassle"
factor. As part of the IAQG's regular standards review,
AS9102 is now undergoing a revision, which will probably
be completed in 2003.
AS9100 itself includes extensive supplementation about
design and development. Given the complexity of aerospace
products and customers' expectations for reliable performance,
these topics have the greatest overall impact on a product
and therefore require the most consideration. Design outputs
have been supplemented to help identify key characteristics.
AS9100 also amplifies design-and-development verification
and validation, which are critical in a product's maturity
cycle. The standard prescribes requirements for verifying
documentation and validating testing and results.
Increasingly, suppliers are sharing the design-and-development
activity as well as partnering with the OEMs, a significant
change in the traditional aerospace supply chain. This presents
some major challenges for the industry. The supply chain
is now very long, and within the supply base there are sources
that serve multiple industries.
Because the industry is so dependent upon its supply chain,
AS9100 includes additional expectations for identifying
and maintaining suppliers. Supplier approval is just one
step in the process of managing suppliers. Another is accurately
communicating requirements from the OEM down to the lowest
link in the chain. AS9100 lists seven specific areas for
consideration. These include clarifying engineering requirements,
managing test specimens and establishing access to suppliers'
No aspect of supplier control is more important than understanding
that a supplier is responsible for managing its subtier
suppliers. This often includes special processes that are
frequently subcontracted to processing houses. Concerning
this issue, aerospace OEMs are promoting and requiring the
use of OEM-approved and -controlled sources via the National
Aerospace and Defense Contractors Accreditation Program
or other customer-controlled processes. Most
U.S.-based OEMs have signed up for NADCAP, and representatives
from the Department of Defense participate as well. Suppliers
must use these customer-approved sources; however, it's
still the supplier's responsibility to ensure that the processing
is properly performed.
The industry also recognizes that things don't always
go as planned. AS9100 outlines steps for controlling and
disposing of nonconforming material in accordance with generally
accepted industry practices. Here again, the industry has
tried to eliminate the hassle factor by developing AS9131,
Quality Systems Nonconformance Documentation. This standard
outlines the specific requirements for contacting the customer
for authorization when using or repairing a product that
doesn't conform to engineering requirements. It also lists
the data and information required when nonconformance is
discovered anywhere in the process, even after the product
Almost 70 percent of global IAQG members have implemented
AS9100 internally and are requiring it of their suppliers.
Many OEMs will require suppliers to comply with the current
version of AS9100, AS9100 revision A, which aligns to ISO
9001:2000 and supercedes older ISO 9000 standards. Beyond
writing the standards, the AAQG and IAQG are involved in
site registrations and approvals of the various AS9100 standards.
Aerospace organizations differ in their methodologies
for verifying compliance to AS9100. Some use external auditors
to verify a supplier's compliance to applicable quality
system requirements. Others provide suppliers with copies
of external audits and permit them to share the audit results
with other customers. However, the industry is migrating
toward the use of third-party registrars as a means of demonstrating
a supplier's compliance to the standard.
In the United States, the AAQG, in conjunction with the
Registrar Accreditation Board, has established a process
and requirements for auditors who perform AS9100 audits
and for registrars who grant supplemental registrations.
The process includes additional training and practical experience
to ensure that auditors and registrars are competent and
experienced in the industry. The AAQG, which has created
a Registrar Management Committee to oversee this important
function, defines the process in the SAE's Aerospace Information
Report 5359. This document details the operation and responsibilities
of all parties involved in the approval process. Currently,
the document only covers AS9100 and AS9000. However, a revision
is underway that will cover additional standards. The AAQG
also issued AIR 5493, which describes the requirements for
AS9100 standards training. Countries in both Europe and
Asia are developing equivalent methods for this process.
The FAA 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." The U.S. Department of Defense
has adopted AS9100 and made it available for use on contracts.
Likewise, NASA issued a similar notice that it had reviewed
the standard and approved its use for contractual requirements.
Both the AAQG and IAQG envision their mission as more
than standards development. Each seeks to harmonize requirements
and streamline existing quality processes and best practices.
To reach these goals, there's still some work to be done,
including examining issues such as calibration requirements,
sampling plans and software control--both embedded and nondeliverable.
As AS9100 takes root within the industry, its benefits
become apparent. Obvious examples include a reduction in
multiple expectations and a consistency in verification
methodology. Thus far, the entire aerospace supply chain
and its stakeholders are pleased with the results. Suppliers
report a reduction in verification audits and an increased
consistency in expectations. In turn, suppliers' customers
point to reduced oversight costs and improved supplier performance.
It's clear that AS9100 is helping the industry move efficiently
and profitably into the future.
Dale K. Gordon is director of quality methods for Rolls-Royce
North America in Indianapolis. He has more than 26 years
of experience in aerospace quality and is a past chair of
the Americas Aerospace Quality Group (1998–2001),
a G-14 Society of Automotive Engineers committee responsible
for the AS9000 series of standards. Gordon also led the
group that created the AS9100 quality system standard for
aerospace. Send letters to the editor regarding this article