What is FOD according to AS9100 Rev D?

When reviewing AS9100 Rev D for the requirements needed to create your aerospace Quality Management System (QMS), you will come across several requirements for “prevention, detection, and removal of foreign objects.” So, the question arises, what does this mean, and how does it apply to your business? Here is a bit more information to help you understand.

Where are the requirements in the standard?

The above phrase about foreign objects appears in the AS9100 Rev D standard in three places, all associated with operation requirements. In clause 8.1a there is a note that says you should consider foreign objects when determining the requirements for your products and services. Clause 8.5.1 talks about consideration of foreign object protections when determining the controlled conditions for your products and services. Finally, clause 8.5.4b requires that your activities to preserve your products need to include foreign object considerations.

Further investigation outside of the AS9100 Rev D standard will inform you that these considerations in the aerospace industry are often referred to as FOD. FOD is an acronym, and FOD information includes a toolbox of ideas to deal with foreign objects in aerospace products. A quick internet search can leave you overwhelmed with FOD information. FOD can be confusing.

For a better understanding of the structure of the AS9100 Rev D standard, check out this article on the PDCA cycle in AS9100 Rev D.

So, what does FOD mean?

Surprisingly, the acronym FOD has three separate definitions: “Foreign Object Detection,” “Foreign Object Debris,” and “Foreign Object Damage.” These three definitions are used almost interchangeably when referring to FOD, and in truth, all are partially correct. FOD includes identifying what foreign objects could become debris in your product. Can this debris cause damage, and if so, how will you detect the debris so that it can be removed? FOD is all about controlling and removing foreign debris in aerospace products that could cause damage.

The concept of FOD first started in the aviation industry where the damage due to foreign objects can be a safety factor that affects human lives. One aviation definition of FOD debris is any object that is not where it is supposed to be and can cause a hazard. You can imagine that if an employee crawls into a tight area to install hardware or make a repair, and leaves a wrench in that space, this could cause damage to the aircraft. This same thinking about putting controls in place to manage unwanted objects that could damage products, has spread out through all of aerospace manufacturing.

Some of the FOD control techniques that are in the FOD toolbox include:

  • Design features that prevent debris from entering aerospace products
  • Tool tethers that prevent an operator from leaving a tool in the wrong place
  • Counting of small pieces of hardware, where you keep track of the hardware to be installed so that none is left over. For example, if you need to install 10 bolts, you only take 10 bolts with you. If you have an extra at the end, you missed something, and if you have an extra hole to fill and no bolt, then one has been misplaced.
  • Inspections of cavities to detect any foreign objects left in them (this can include special equipment like a borescope)
  • Procedures for the safe cleaning of debris found during inspections
  • Shadow boards, which show what tools or equipment are used for the task. If a tool is missing, there will be a vacant space for it on the board.
  • Clothing designed to prevent ripping and tearing, which could leave torn material as debris
  • Magnetic sweepers, which collect and hold metallic debris that is on the floor or table so that it will not fall into products
  • Covers that will prevent foreign objects from getting inside of hardware

As you can see, the tools used for FOD are numerous, and as per the standard, you need to consider what is needed for your product or service as a means of controlling foreign objects.

If you are interested in learning more about FOD, you can look into the AS9146 standard, which define the requirements for a FOD prevention program.

What does this mean to your business?

It is important to note that all of these requirements in AS9100 Rev D are listed “as applicable,” which means they may not be necessary for every product or services. The first thing to do is to identify if there is any type of foreign object that could become entrapped in your products and cause damage. Your products may not have any potential damage due to foreign objects, and if so, then these requirements are not applicable to you.

If you do find that you need to control and prevent debris from contaminating your hardware, remember the old proverb that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Try to design products to prevent the FOD in the first place, rather than counting on difficult and expensive inspections and cleaning. As with all the requirements of AS9100 Rev D, implement what is necessary for you and your customers, not just what you think is necessary to satisfy your certification body.

Do you need help understanding the AS9100 Rev D requirements? See this whitepaper for a Clause-by-clause explanation of AS9100 Rev D.

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.