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How to define quality objectives in AS9100

Author: Mark Hammar

In AS9100 Rev D there is a requirement to include quality objectives and plans to achieve them within your aerospace Quality Management System (QMS), but what are these objectives for, and why do you need them? To many it comes as a surprise that the quality objectives are one of the main ways that an organization will plan for continual improvement. Here’s more about quality objectives and how they are used.

Quality objectives: What are they, and why do you need them?

Quality objectives are intended to be goals for improvement in the Quality Management System. While AS9100 does not tell you how to write your quality objectives, there are a few things that you do need with your quality objectives:

  • Ensure they are consistent with the quality policy: Your quality policy is your overall vision for your QMS, so the quality objectives need to support this and not be completely unrelated.
  • Ensure they can be measured: How can you tell if an improvement has happened if you are not measuring an attribute that will get better?
  • Consider applicable requirements: Make sure that your quality objectives are in line with your requirements, and do not conflict with them.
  • Make them relevant to your products, services, and enhancing customer satisfaction: This is why you have a QMS, so choosing quality objectives that are in line with this goal is necessary.
  • Monitor them: How can you tell if you are progressing towards your goal if you are not monitoring progress? Monitor actions to be taken, as well as the attribute you are measuring above.
  • Communicate them: If the people in the processes being improved do not know of the improvement objective, how can they be expected to work towards the improvement?
  • Update them as needed: If you are monitoring your progress and need to change the objective, then do so.

While the previous version of AS9100 did not specifically talk about plans to achieve quality objectives, how can you expect an objective to be met if you do not plan to achieve it? In the updated AS9100 standard, there are now included requirements for planning to achieve quality objectives, which are fairly simple. Within your plans to achieve quality objectives, ensure that you determine what needs to be done, what resources you need, who will do it, when it needs to be done, and how you will evaluate the results. With plans in place you can monitor your progress towards achieving your quality objectives.

To find out more about the difference between continual improvement and corrective action, see this article on Corrective actions vs. continual improvement in AS9100.

How can you make your quality objectives work for you?

So, in short, the quality objectives are one of the main ways that an organization is expected to set targets for improvement and create plans to achieve them, so how can you make them work for you? Simply ensure that your objective targets are of importance to you, and make certain that your objectives are S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-based). This will help ensure that when you work towards achieving your objectives, you will also be working towards an improvement that is important to the long-term success of your company.

For instance, if your customer base is concerned about on-time delivery, and this is an area that you have identified for improvement to enhance customer satisfaction, you should create a quality objective around this need. An example of a S.M.A.R.T. objective could be: “To improve on-time delivery from 85% to 90% within the next 9 months.” This objective is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-based so that you have a reasonable target to aim for.

You would then plan to achieve this objective. Of course, the plan will be specific to your organization, but some activities might include reducing time to design, reducing time for suppliers to deliver parts, reducing time to manufacture, and reducing time to create paperwork for customer buy-off. All of these activities could be in your plan to reduce the amount of time you take to produce your product or service, and therefore improve your on-time delivery.

However, the important thing to remember is to make the quality objectives, and their corresponding plans, something that is important to you and your business. That is how you make them work for you.

How do you establish quality objectives?

This is one small item in the quality objective requirements that is essential to ensuring that quality objectives are established and will be successful, and that is communication. If you are trying to reduce the time for design activities to take place in the example above, then all of the people involved in the design activities need to understand that this is the goal, as well as what plans are in place to make this happen. It is only when everyone is on board that your plans can be put into action and your objective can be reached.

Remember, one of the key reasons that companies implement a Quality Management System is to see the benefit that continual improvements can give, so ensure that your continual improvement activities (especially quality objective activities) are properly planned and resourced, so that you can see the benefits and savings in time and money that you need from implementing the QMS. You owe it to your organization to gain all the benefits you can from your investment.

If you are implementing AS9100 Rev D and need some help understanding the steps involved, check out this free  Diagram of AS9100 Rev D Implementation Process.

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