By Victor Hester, Vice President, Operations
Let’s start with a little background for anyone that doesn’t know what AS-9100 means or why you would have it at all. AS-9100 is a quality management system, developed to address the holes that aerospace companies found in the ISO-9001 standard, in the way they needed to do business for their customers. It was initially ratified in 1999, and has since gone through 4 revisions to our current version today, which is AS-9100D.
What is a Quality System?
A quality system is a formalized system that documents procedures and processes to achieve your customer needs. When you have a quality system, your customers know that you have a complete system to create the product or services you offer in a quality and repeatable way, while meeting any regulatory requirements. In addition, the system also forces continuous improvement of the effectiveness and efficiency of the processes, which is the true hidden gem for both the AS-9100 companies and their customers.
Through the risk and opportunity evaluations done as part of the AS-9100 process, there are always things to make your company better, or improve your customer’s experience. When companies like OSS have adopted the AS-9100, the world knows that we are looking at these risks and opportunities and addressing them in a proactive manner.
The continuous improvement mindset is hard to ingrain into the culture of a company, but AS-9100 helps force the process, and gets team members to continually address these items. For OSS, this journey began many years ago with the ISO-9001 standard, and a commitment from the company to follow that quality management system. We have progressed from ISO-9001 to AS-9100 starting in 2020 and completing in 2021, getting certified by SAI Global in early 2022. In a short amount of time, the company has made significant progress throughout the organization around continuous improvement. You can almost watch the culture change as people adopt the mindset, and continuous improvement becomes a way of life.
Quick to Change
Kin to continuous improvement is what I call “quick to change”. It is very easy for companies to get into ruts such as “that is how we do it”, “that is how we have always done it”, or “why would we change what works?”. These are all poor reasons not to change things; the only questions that matter are “how can we make it better?”, “how can we help our customer by changing our process?”, and lastly “what risk we will have if we don’t change it, or we do change it?”. We are here to sell to and service our customers, so all processes should start with the customer in mind. Customers, of course, care about quality, but they also care about cost and availability. So, when companies see opportunities to improve any of these vectors without hurting the other vectors, it should be considered and implemented if it will result in a more satisfied customer. When the company saves money, it can pass those savings onto their customers, helping to keep them competitive, which keeps business coming in the long term.
To give an example of a continuous improvement project, it was recognized through our AS-9100 certification process to review our vendor quality metrics for which the returns were high, and much time and energy in the factory were being focused on bad components. A cross-functional team was put together, which scoped the possible solutions and worked with the vendor to give the ability to test the parts as they would be used, before they would be sent to us. We expect this to improve quality, cost, and availability for our customers. So this is a win-win-win.
By adopting AS-9100 as we have at OSS, you ingrain a continuous improvement mindset in your organization. This helps both the company, and more importantly, the customer, who receives higher quality for less cost, and they receive their product on time. When you’re continually improving your product/service to your customers, they want to continue to do business with you. That is what it is all about.
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