How to meet AS9100 requirements as a defense subcontractor

AS9100 Rev D is specifically used by aircraft, space, and defense organizations to create an aerospace Quality Management System (QMS), but even within the aerospace industry these three types of companies are very different. So, if you are a defense subcontractor in particular, how does this affect your implementation of the AS9100 requirements? In this article, we will look at what the standard requires and how this affects you.

What does AS9100 Rev D require?

As a set of QMS requirements that are descriptive but not prescriptive, telling you what needs to be included in the QMS but not how to do it, it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly which requirements are focused on meeting the needs of a defense subcontractor according to AS9100. As a defense contractor, these are the clauses of the standard that you need to focus on in your efforts to align your QMS with the defense industry, starting with the very first requirements clause of the standard:

AS9100: How to comply as a defense subcontractor

Understanding organizational context. Clause 4.1 is the first clause that makes you specifically think about your precise industry. The clause asks you to determine the internal and external issues that affect your ability to meet the intent of your QMS, and being a unique industry, the issues of the defense industry will greatly affect your company. How do you get work? How often are projects awarded, and how long do they last? All of these issues will affect how you set up your QMS processes. For more information, see the article: AS9100: Understanding the requirements of context of the organization.

Needs and expectations of interested parties. Clause 4.2 demands that you consider who your stakeholders are and what they expect. In the defense industry, your customers will have very unique and specific requirements that you need to fulfill, and understanding this will also affect how you align your internal processes. Of course, customers are not the only important interested parties for a defense contractor; there are numerous legal requirements that need to be embedded into your production and support processes.

For example, the secrecy, confidentiality, and control of technical performance requirements for your products and services will be of paramount importance within all of your QMS processes – from who you hire to the availability of documentation throughout the organization. For more detail, see this helpful article from 9001Academy: How to determine interested parties and their requirements according to ISO 9001:2015.

Customer focus. Clause 5.1.2 forces your top management to ensure that there is a focus on meeting the identified requirements of customers, as well as statutory and regulatory requirements. All of those needs and expectations that you identified in clause 4.2 need to find focus in the company at all levels, so everyone needs to understand not only what is required of them to create the products and services, but also to meet the legal requirements that we mentioned above.

Risks and opportunities. Clause 6.1 asks that you take the information from clauses 4.1 & 4.2 and assess what risks there are to meeting these requirements. In addition, you must assess if there are any opportunities available within these requirements to improve the QMS. This risk and opportunity planning activity focuses you on identifying what could possibly go wrong due to the issues and expectations of the defense industry so that you can make adequate plans to address them. For instance, if you take the legal requirements to protect the confidentiality of product performance, consider what could happen that would put in jeopardy your ability to meet these requirements. These risks need to be mitigated, because not meeting this critical law can have devastating consequences for your company. To better understand this requirement, see the article: How to address risks and opportunities in AS9100.

While many other requirements within the standard will have an impact on your specific implementation of AS9100, these four requirements that appear early in the standard provide a foundation for aligning your QMS with the special requirements of the defense industry. All of this information needs to become part of the foundation and planning of the management system, so that you can ensure that these necessary requirements become embedded into all of the QMS processes.

Align your QMS with defense industry requirements

As you can see, the AS9100 Rev D requirements, although intended to be applicable to the entire aerospace industry, include many aspects that force you to focus your QMS processes towards meeting the customer and legal requirements of the defense industry when this is your company focus, thereby aligning your QMS to the needs of the defense industry. If you ignore these important alignments, you will end up with a QMS that does not meet your overall needs.

For a full overview of the AS9100 Rev D requirements, download this free white paper: 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.