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What is AS9100?

Are you looking for a simple answer to this question?

Are you in the aerospace industry and trying to figure out what AS9100 is, and specifically, how it is different from ISO 9001? If so, then this guide can give you an overview of this important standard and how it can benefit your organization.

The simple, but important basics of AS9100

Both AS9100 and ISO 9001 are standards that include requirements for implementing a Quality Management System (QMS) in your organization. AS9100 is based on the ISO 9001 requirements, so it is easiest to talk about this standard first. ISO 9001 is an internationally recognized standard for Quality Management Systems that is published by ISO (the International Organization for Standardization). The requirements are recognized around the world as an acceptable basis for implementing a QMS, and it was last updated in 2015, so it is referred to as ISO 9001:2015.

While the ISO 9001 standard is generally accepted by any industry around the world, AS9100 is specifically modified for aerospace companies. What the International Aerospace Quality Group (IAQG) has done is to take the ISO 9001:2015 requirements in their entirety, and then add in specific aerospace Quality Management System requirements without removing any existing requirements, thereby creating the AS9100 Revision D standard; these additions appear in bold and italics in the document. There are more than 17,000 companies registered to AS9100 worldwide as of March 2017.

In addition to AS9100, there are two other sets of requirements for different types of aerospace companies: AS9110 for the QMS of aerospace maintenance organizations, and AS9120 for the QMS of aerospace stockist distributors. In addition, there are supporting documents in the AS 9100 family: AS9101 is an audit checklist and assessment document, AS 9102 is a guidance document for performing aerospace first article inspections, AS9103 gives guidance for variation management of key characteristics, and many others are used to help with implementation of the QMS requirements.

What is a Quality Management System?

In explaining AS9100, the term “Quality Management System” has been used. A Quality Management System is a collection of the company policies, processes, documented procedures, and records that define how the company will operate in order to provide products and services to customers. You need to tailor the QMS to the needs of your company, and the AS9100 standard gives you a set of guidelines to help make sure that you don’t miss any important elements so that your aerospace QMS can be successful.

Why is AS9100 important, and how can it benefit your organization?

Your customers want to know that you are taking the steps necessary to improve the quality of your products and services and to enhance customer satisfaction, and implementing a QMS according to the requirements of AS9100 can do just that. By managing, controlling, and auditing your own processes, as well as having an outside certification body verifying that your QMS meet the requirements, your customers can know that everything is well in hand.

As the internationally recognized standard for aerospace Quality Management Systems, AS9100 is based on seven quality management principles that are recognized as necessary to make a Quality Management System work. Your customers will be content to know that your QMS is also based on these principles. To find out more about these principles, which are also applicable to ISO 9001, see this article on The seven quality management principles behind ISO 9001 requirements.

One of the biggest benefits of AS9100 certification is that every certified company must be included on the Online Aerospace Supplier Information System (OAIS) maintained by the IAQG. This is a searchable database that is available for any company in the aerospace industry that is looking at supplier selection and surveillance, and includes not only information about each company, but also contact information for purchasing. Since OASIS is used by the industry to find suppliers, it is like a free marketing tool for your company, used throughout the aerospace industry.

What is the structure of AS9100?

AS9100 Rev D follows the same structure as the new ISO 9001:2015 standard, so it is split into 10 sections, with the first three being introductory and the last seven containing the requirements of AS9100. Here is what the seven sections are about:

Section 4: Context of the Organization – This first section includes all the requirements for identifying the context of your organization, who your interested parties are and what their needs include, and what the scope of your QMS will be. Understanding your organization better will give you a firm foundation for your QMS.

Section 5: Leadership – Focusing the leadership of your organization on customers and improving customer satisfaction is done through these requirements, which require your senior leadership team to establish and communicate the Quality Policy – a policy that will become the focus for your QMS improvements. Senior leaders also need to assign the organizational roles, responsibilities, and authorities for the QMS, ensuring that resources are adequately assigned.

Section 6: Planning – This section addresses the need to understand and plan action to address the risks and opportunities that are applicable to the QMS of the company. This allows you to set quality objectives for improvement and plan for changes.

Section 7: Support – All of the requirements about resources, including human resources, infrastructure, competence, communication, and documented information are here to support the QMS processes and your people.

Section 8: Operation – All of the requirements for processes to identify the requirements to design, create, preserve, and deliver your products and services are included in this section of the AS9100 standard. This includes aerospace-specific requirements regarding risk management, configuration management, product safety, and control of key characteristics, as well as additions to design and development and nonconforming output requirements.

Section 9: Performance Evaluation – Having a QMS requires that you have a way to evaluate its performance, including internal audits and management reviews, so that you know that processes are performing as expected and that any improvement activities you are implementing are actually leading to improvement.

Section 10: Improvement – One of the main benefits of implementing a QMS is to find improvements in your company, and the requirements in this section pertaining to continual improvement and corrective actions are designed to help you find long-term benefit from your QMS.

These requirements follow a standard Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle which, if used properly, is known for the ability to find and sustain lasting improvements within your business processes.

What are the benefits of implementing AS9100?

Based on internationally recognized quality management principles, AS9100 is designed to help you to implement a Quality Management System that has been shown to provide the following benefits:

Improved customer satisfaction – By focusing your efforts on understanding customer requirements and meeting customer needs, the satisfaction of your customers will improve. Higher customer satisfaction leads to more repeat customers, which is good for your business.

Improved decision making – By involving top management within your Quality Management System, and basing your decisions on evidence rather than vague notions and attitudes, you can improve how you make decisions. Better decisions mean better allocation of resources which, in turn, can lead to lower costs.

Better efficiency – By using the process approach to better understand the processes used to provide your products and services, as well as taking an overall system view of how these processes interact, you can not only work to make each process better, but also to reduce inefficiency when products and information flow between processes.

Employee engagement – When you have an emphasis on meeting customer needs, improving your system and processes, and increasing customer satisfaction, your employees will have a focus for their work. Who is better at understanding the processes to try to make them better than the people who work on them? And this engagement can improve employee morale and workplace satisfaction.

Better relationships with suppliers – Improving the relationships with your suppliers can bring many benefits as you work towards improving the satisfaction of your customers. In partnership with your suppliers, you can find ways to make your purchased products and services less expensive, delivered quicker, and more suited to your needs. Overall, this can save time and money for both you and your suppliers.

Make improvement part of your daily business – Continual improvement, making the Quality Management System better incrementally over time, is so ingrained in the AS9100 standard that this can become second nature to your organization. When this happens, you can have the entire workforce involved in finding ways to make your processes better, less costly, and more efficient – which is an improvement for everyone.

Along with these benefits, AS9100, as the internationally recognized standard for aerospace Quality Management Systems, will give you an improved image to your customers who understand that managing the quality of your products and services is critical for overall business success.

What is needed for AS9100 implementation?

Implementation of AS9100 Rev D has become simplified, because the standard has been put in the same order as the steps you need to take:

  1. Identify your context and define your scope.
  2. Define the Quality Policy, along with the roles & responsibilities.
  3. Identify your risks and opportunities and set your improvement objectives and plans.
  4. Ensure you have the support resources in place for the QMS.
  5. Set up all of your operating processes and procedures.
  6. Determine how you will evaluate performance, and set up these processes.
  7. Set up processes to find and maintain improvements.

Your documented information can be created internally by people in your company, or you can get help by hiring a consultant or purchasing standard documentation. To see samples of documentation, visit this free AS9100 downloads page.

After you have implemented all of the requirements of the AS9100 standard, and operated your management system for a set amount of time in order to accumulate records of your activities, the auditors from your chosen certification body will verify your system and give you a certificate showing that your management system meets all of the requirements.

AS9100 certification: How does it work?

Certification allows your customers to know that they do not need to audit your QMS on their own, because you have a registered third-party certification body that has already audited your system against the AS9100 requirements and has certified that it is compliant. The reason you need to operate your QMS is to allow you to do the following important activities before certification:

Internal audits – Your internal audit process allows you to check that all of your processes are meeting the planned arrangements, and if not, to find the root cause of any problems and correct them. This can help to find and correct any hidden weaknesses in your QMS.

Management reviews – As part of their commitment to the QMS, management needs to review the system to ensure it is effectively and efficiently implemented. This allows them to assign resources appropriately.

Corrective action – When problems are found in your QMS during use, you need to find the root cause and correct it so that the problem will not recur.

The certification body process is divided into two stages:

Documentation Audit (Stage one) – Here the auditors will review your QMS and ensure that your documentation meets the requirements of AS9100.

Certification Audit (Stage two) – In this step the auditors will conduct interviews with employees and review records in order to determine that the evidence provided shows that your QMS processes are giving results that match the planned arrangements for each process.

Can individuals be certified to AS 9100?

The AS9100 standard is intended to be used by companies to certify their aerospace Quality Management System, and is not to be used to certify individuals or products and services. That being said, there are many aspects of AS9100 that individuals can receive training on in order to provide the skills needed.

AS9100 Lead Auditor Course – This is the course that is required of auditors who will work for a certification body to audit company Quality Management Systems. It is a four- to five-day course that focuses on understanding AS9100, as well as building audit skills for assessing companies. There is a test included in this course to verify the participant’s AS9100 knowledge, and only an accredited course can approve an individual to perform certification body audits.

AS9100 Internal Auditor Course – Commonly a two- to three-day course that will give employees the knowledge they need to understand the AS9100 requirements and complete the internal audits within a company.

AS9100 Awareness and Implementation Course – There are many courses offered to help employees better understand the AS9100 requirements so that they can implement the QMS in their company. If you will be involved in the implementation, but not the eventual auditing of your AS9100 QMS, then these courses might be what you need.

To learn more about AS9100, please visit our AS9100 learning center where you will find many helpful resources, including free AS9100 resource downloads.

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Mark Hammar
Lead AS9100 expert

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