Understanding configuration management in AS9100 Rev D

In the aerospace industry, the configuration of an item is extremely important, and this importance is made apparent by the fact that there are configuration management requirements in AS9100 Rev D for creating an aerospace Quality Management System (QMS). However, exactly what configuration management is can be confusing for many; so, what is configuration management, and what do the AS9100 requirements say about it?

What is configuration management?

It is no surprise to anyone that requirements for products and services can change sometimes, and when these changes happen we need to control them. The whole idea of configuration management is not only to be able to make these controlled changes, but to know which version of each change is present in each product and service item delivered.

For instance, if you were delivering 20 product units to a customer, and partway through the contract there was a change in testing to make the test criteria stricter, you would need to be able to say which units were tested according to the old test requirement, and which were tested to the new and stricter requirement. The same can be said about a change in a constituent part of the larger product; if there is a change in the lower-level part, a smaller component that becomes part of your delivered item, you need to tell which of your top-level units include which versions of the lower-level parts.

How is configuration management accomplished?

Configuration management is accomplished by tracking the changes and versions of every part of your products and services so that you can know what requirements were applicable to every smaller component within your deliverable item. This is often done by assigning revision levels to all parts and documents used to build and test your deliverable product. A revision is a designation used to identify the changes made to a document or part, and identify how current the document is relative to a standard. This system comprises using sequential numbers or letters for each change of a document or part. In this way, configuration management is heavily tied into your product traceability system, as it allows you to tie the configuration of all items in your product to the top-level traceability indicator.

So, if the part you used is revision 04 and the current part is revision 05, you know that a change was made and can then assess the usability. Likewise, if the test procedure was currently at revision D and you tested according to revision B, you could tell what changes to the test had occurred since the test was performed. There are many systems for controlling configuration management, such as ISO 10007 “Quality management systems – Guidelines for configuration management,” and the important thing is to assess what you need to do according to your customer requirements.

What does AS9100 Rev D require for configuration management?

The requirements for configuration management read quite simply in clause 8.1.2, and are threefold:

  1. Have a process that is appropriate for your products and services so that you can ensure identification and control of the functional and physical attributes throughout the product lifecycle.
  2. Control the product throughout changes by controlling product identity and traceability.
  3. Ensure that the documented information for the product or service is consistent with the actual attributes.

So, basically, you should know and control your product and service attributes, and ensure that you know that the documentation is correct.

As important as the requirement for having configuration management is, it is also important to know when this process is referred to throughout the AS9100 Rev D requirements. There are four times that the requirements refer back to configuration:

  1. When you need to perform testing, you need to ensure that the correct configuration of the test item is submitted to test.
  2. Design and development outputs must include all the data (e.g., drawings, parts lists, specifications, etc.) that is required to define the configuration.
  3. Design changes must be controlled using the configuration management process.
  4. Identification and traceability processes must include the identification of the configuration of products and services so that you will be able to identify the differences between the requirements and what is actually delivered in the products and services.

Configuration management within the aerospace QMS is about knowing exactly what your product or service is, compared to the requirements outlined for the product or service. When you know what is actually being delivered, you can then assess whether any differences between the current requirements and the delivered product are acceptable to meet the overall needs.

Knowing your configuration can help control changes

Keeping track of the configuration of your product is not only a requirement – it is also a good idea. When you are dealing with changing requirements, knowing exactly which products meet which requirements is a necessity. By doing this, you can assess if a particular product needs to have changes made in parts or testing in order to be usable when requirements change. It can even be essential when making a change to know what the current configuration of the product is. When you know the configuration of the product, then you can assess if the change being made is coming too late because the products have already gone past the stage when the change would take effect, such as a change in testing.

The critical thing to remember with configuration management is to understand what the customer and regulatory requirements are for your unique products and services, so that you can better implement a configuration management system that will deliver what you and your customers need.

For more information to help with implementing AS9100 Rev D, use this  Diagram of the AS9100 Rev D Implementation Process.

Advisera Mark Hammar
Mark Hammar
Mark Hammar is a Certified Manager of Quality / Organizational Excellence through the American Society for Quality and has been a Quality Professional since 1994. Mark has experience in auditing, improving processes, and writing procedures for Quality, Environmental, and Occupational Health & Safety Management Systems, and is certified as a Lead Auditor for ISO 9001, AS9100, and ISO 14001.