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Mark Hammar

AS9100 consultant: How to choose the right one

Sometimes it is more efficient to get some help implementing the AS9100 Rev D aerospace quality management system (QMS). If you have chosen to do this, you will be looking for a consultant to give you a hand. Unsurprisingly, not every consultant is equal, and choosing the right one for your organization can mean the difference between an easy-to-follow implementation plan and a complicated disaster. So, how do you choose an AS9100 consultant that fits all your needs?

Start with knowing your business

Aerospace includes a vastly different group of companies and, just as every business is different, every QMS implementation is different as well. If you are going to find the right consultant to help you, then you will want to know that their experience in implementing the QMS is compatible with your company. Just because a consultant knows aircraft suppliers does not mean that they also know the aerospace or defense industry well. Equally, within the aircraft manufacture industry, there are many different types of products. Knowing how machining works is different than knowing how electronics work.

Knowing your subset of the aerospace industry is the first step in knowing the experience needed from the consultant. Since aerospace includes all of these different types of challenges, you want to understand exactly what type of implementation experience you are looking for in a consultant before you start. You don’t want to spend an excessive amount of time teaching your consultant about your industry before they can be useful, do you?

Know the team your consultant will work with

QMS implementation is rarely a one person show, so you will very likely have a team that the consultant will be working with. Even if you are a small organization that expects the consultant to manage most of the implementation, he/she will still have to work with people within your organization to get the information needed to properly define your processes and his/her interactions.

So, interactions with your team will need to be considered before choosing the consultant you want. This can include simple things such as the languages spoken by your consultant as compared to your team.

You will also want to know the temperaments of people the consultant will be working with. Interviewing consultants is the same as interviewing anyone else to join your team; you will want to make sure that they have the personality to get along with everyone they will need to interact with. The consultant may need to use some of your employees’ time, and finding a consultant that will work well with your team can be critical to keep the necessary timelines. The choice of consultant can be just as important as adding another permanent member to the organizational team.

For some help when interviewing a consultant, check out this helpful checklist: List of questions to ask your AS9100 consultant.

What is the balance between cost and work for your employees?

As already stated, the consultant will not be doing everything alone, so you will need to know exactly what your team is capable of achieving when you discuss this with your potential consultant. Different consultants have different expectations of what will be done by them, and what will be done by the organization. This is an important discussion to have early on with your consultant since, even if the implementation plan is standard, how the work is distributed can be different. Consultant services differ, and this can be a main reason that consultant prices differ.

Even though the total price is important, it is largely dependent on how many of the implementation activities the consultant expects your employees to do. Just having a lower price is not helpful if you end up having to do more than is possible for the team at your organization. For instance, if technical writing is not something that people in your group are good at, then finding a consultant who will create the necessary documentation for your requirements would be something that will aid in your overall implementation success.

How to choose an AS9100 consultant

Look for soft skills, not just impressive experience

Remember, the person you are hiring as a consultant will need to work very closely with people within your organization, and this is more important than the impressive experience that they may talk about. Just because they helped to implement the QMS at a remarkable company in the past, does not necessarily mean they will work out for you. Make sure you know your own organization’s needs before you choose the right consultant. Remember, you are looking for someone to help you build the best system for you, not to force in a one-size-fits-all QMS that could be more complex than it is helpful. To get the best QMS for your organization you need the best consultant for the job.

Learn more about the implementation options in this free white paper: Implementing AS9100 with a consultant vs. DIY approach.


About the author

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.

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