How to choose an AS9100 Rev D certification body
The end goal of using AS9100 Rev D to create your aerospace Quality Management System (QMS) is to gain certification to be able to demonstrate that you meet all the necessary requirements. In a previous article, AS9100 Rev D certification process: What are the main steps?, we looked at the steps to gain certification. These steps include choosing a certification body who will send auditors to verify your processes against the standard, but what considerations should go into this decision?
What to consider when choosing an AS9100 certification body
Many aerospace companies don’t fully think through the choice of certification body, but if you want your QMS to pay benefits, this can be one of the most important decisions. If you want the certification audit to benefit you more than just providing you with an AS9100 Rev D certificate on your wall, you will want to ensure that the auditors provided for the certification audit will assist you in this endeavor. Here are a few things to consider when you are searching for the right certification body:
Industry experience. There are many different sub-industries within aerospace, and it is helpful if the auditors that the AS9100 certification body employs are knowledgeable of your type of business. Just because the auditors have experience in the aerospace machining industry doesn’t mean they will know much about the aerospace electronics industry. If you have to teach them what you do before they can audit, you are likely to receive less of a benefit from the certification audit process.
Opportunities for improvement. There is some variation in the ability of certification auditors to identify opportunities that they see for you to improve. The AS9100 Rev D certification auditors will have seen many different aerospace companies, and might have come across innovative ways to perform the processes you are doing. If they can let you know about these improvements, without jeopardizing the intellectual property of the other company, then this could be a help for you, even if this does not go into the audit report. It is helpful to discuss how the auditors can deal with these improvement opportunities before you hire the company.
Management system integration. If you are thinking of implementing more than just the AS9100 management system, it can be helpful to have a certification auditor who can audit and certify for more than just the one standard. The right certification body can help guide you on the path of what needs to be done, although they cannot help you to implement. This allows you to have multiple audits combined into one, which can save you time and money. This can even be extended into certifications other than just for the ISO standards, such as NADCAP. For more on the differences and similarities between NADCAP and AS9100, see the article Connection between NADCAP and AS9100 Rev D – Which one do you need?
Maintenance audit options. The AS9100 Rev D certification process works on a three-year cycle, and between the main certification audits you will have what are called maintenance or surveillance audits; these are audits that do not verify the entire system but, over the years, will look at all its processes. These maintenance audits can occur once, twice, or even four times a year during the audit cycle, and choosing the right number of maintenance audits can give you data to help you to work on continual improvement throughout the certification cycle. Find a certification body that offers the maintenance cycle that works best for you.
As you can see, there is a lot to think about when you interview the certification bodies that you want to choose from, and being prepared for these interviews is important.
Remember: You choose the certification body
What a lot of aerospace companies forget is that you are choosing the certification body and, as such, they work for you. They need to follow their own processes and rules, and if your QMS does not meet the requirements of AS9100, you should expect them to point out these nonconformities, but they must not try to impose unfounded requirements on you during the process. The certification body is there to verify your system, but they also need to add value apart from just providing you with a certificate. Do your due diligence and find the right certification body, and you will find that the certification process can bring benefits to your company beyond those gained through implementation of AS9100.
To view a list of 14 questions to ask your certification body, download this free: List of questions to ask an AS9100 Rev D certification body.
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.