What is the AS9100 and Why Does it Matter?

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Ensuring quality and safety is paramount in aviation, space, and defense. The AS9100 standard is pivotal in this domain, setting the benchmark for quality management systems. But what exactly is AS9100, and why is it so crucial for the aerospace and other industries? 

What is the AS9100 Certification?

AS9100 is an aerospace standard released by the International Aerospace Quality Group (IAQG). It's based on the globally recognized ISO 9001 standard, which outlines the requirements for implementing a Quality Management System (QMS) in organizations. However, AS9100 is explicitly tailored for aviation, space, and defense entities.

ISO 9001, published by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), is a universally accepted standard for QMS. It was last updated in 2015, hence referred to as ISO 9001:2015. AS9100 takes all the requirements of ISO 9001:2015 and adds specific aerospace QMS requirements, making it the go-to standard for aerospace companies.

The AS9100 standard was first introduced in 1999, based on the ISO 9001:1994 version. It has undergone several revisions, with the latest being AS9100 Rev D in 2016, which incorporates the requirements of ISO 9001:2015.

Companies and organizations within the aerospace sector, including those dealing with and offering products or components to aviation, space, and defense, typically seek AS9100 certification. This certification assures stakeholders of the company's commitment to quality and safety.

Why Does the AS9100 Certification Matter?

AS9100 is not just another certification. It's a testament to an organization's dedication to meeting the specific requirements of the aerospace community. The aerospace sector has unique needs, and a QMS needs to address these critical demands. AS9100 ensures that suppliers in the aerospace domain meet these specific requirements and continually improve their products and services, enhancing customer satisfaction.

Being the internationally recognized standard for aerospace QMS, AS9100 is grounded on seven quality management principles, which are:

  • Customer focused approach to product development and delivery
  • Quality leadership
  • Engagement with people
  • Process driven approach to quality standards
  • Continual improvement
  • Evidence-based decision making
  • Strong relationship management of customers, suppliers and regulators

These principles are essential for the effective functioning of a QMS, and customers find solace in knowing that a certified company's QMS is based on these principles.

One significant advantage of AS9100 certification is the inclusion of every certified company in the Online Aerospace Supplier Information System (OASIS) maintained by the IAQG. This database is a valuable resource for the aerospace industry, aiding supplier selection and surveillance.

 Implementation and Maintenance of AS9100 Certification 

The journey to achieve and maintain AS9100 certification is multifaceted, requiring a blend of strategic planning, resource allocation, and continuous monitoring. Each step in this journey has its significance, ensuring that the organization's QMS is robust and effective:

  • Internal Audits: These are essential for ensuring the company's processes align with the AS9100 requirements. Regular internal audits help identify gaps, inconsistencies, or areas of improvement in the QMS.
  • Management Reviews: These reviews are crucial for the top management to understand the effectiveness of the QMS. It provides an opportunity for the leadership to gauge the performance of the QMS, identify areas of concern, and allocate necessary resources to address them.
  • Corrective Action: This is a proactive approach to address any non-conformities or issues that arise during the operation of the QMS. By identifying the root cause of the problem and implementing corrective actions, organizations can prevent the recurrence of the issue.
  • Continuous Training: For the successful implementation and maintenance of AS9100, ongoing training of employees is vital. This ensures they are well-versed with the standard's requirements and can effectively contribute to its implementation.

Challenges and Risks Associated with AS9100 Certification

Embarking on the AS9100 certification journey is not without its hurdles. While the rewards of certification are numerous, organizations must navigate a series of challenges and potential risks to achieve and maintain their certified status, including: 

  • Resource Allocation: Implementing the AS9100 standard can be resource-intensive. Organizations must invest in training, infrastructure, and technology to meet the standard's requirements.
  • Resistance to Change: As with any change, there might be resistance from employees. It's essential to communicate the benefits of the certification and get buy-in from all levels of the organization.
  • Keeping Up with Revisions: The AS9100 standard undergoes periodic revisions. Organizations need to stay updated with these changes and ensure that their QMS is always in line with the latest version of the standard.

Benefits and ROI of AS9100 Certification

Achieving AS9100 certification brings many advantages that can significantly impact an organization's operations, reputation, and bottom line. These advantages not only enhance the company's standing in the aerospace sector but also translate to tangible benefits for the company's customers and the overall aerospace industry supply chain.

  • Operational Efficiency: One of the significant benefits of implementing AS9100 is improving operational efficiency. The standard promotes best practices that can help streamline processes, reduce waste, and improve productivity.
  • Risk Management: AS9100 emphasizes risk management, helping organizations identify potential risks and implement strategies to mitigate them. This can lead to more stable operations and reduced unforeseen disruptions.
  • Global Recognition and Improved Trust: AS9100 is recognized globally, and certification can give organizations an edge in the international market, making them more attractive to global clients and partners. Additionally, companies can boost their reputation and customer trust by adhering to internationally recognized quality standards. 

The Future of the AS9100 Certification 

The aerospace industry is on the cusp of several technological advancements, from the rise of electric aircraft to the exploration of deep space. As these technologies become mainstream, the AS9100 standard will need to evolve to address their unique challenges and risks. There's also a growing emphasis on sustainability in the aerospace sector. Future revisions of AS9100 might incorporate more stringent environmental and sustainability requirements. Whatever happens, organizations must stay agile and be prepared to adapt to these changes to remain compliant and competitive.

Wrapping Up 

Quality cannot be compromised in the demanding world of aviation, space, and defense. The AS9100 standard ensures that organizations operating in these sectors meet the highest standards of quality and safety. Understanding, implementing, and maintaining this standard means companies can meet the expectations of their customers and stakeholders and pave the way for a safer and more efficient aerospace industry.

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