The aerospace and defense market is on a roll. Aircraft backorders are at an all-time high at almost $2 trillion level. Notably the U.S. has approved a $700B defense budget for next year. For those with an appetite for extraterrestrial business, the $300B+ market therein is also set to grow substantially in the near term both in satellite launching and preparations for the planned Mars mission. If ever there was a time for you to break into these industries as a supplier to original equipment manufacturers, it is now. The vast requirements and complexities of products, processes and everything required to ensure production runs smoothly for aerospace and defense firms cannot be underestimated. These companies typically require and contract with tens of thousands of suppliers. While recent years have seen record numbers of orders for the industry, they have also seen unprecedented delivery delays for new airplanes and components. Manufacturers competing on a worldwide scale have found it increasingly difficult to balance their ability to develop new innovations and achieve current goals. They are sometimes stymied by the endless responsibilities of improving efficiency, lowering cost without sacrificing the quality and elevating supplier relationships. They have also had to address the phased-in requirements for remaining compliant with AS9100, the aerospace quality system standard (among other regulations and standards) known as EN 9100 in Europe and JISQ 9100 in Japan.
Entering the field
Global giants in the defense and aerospace industries have commitments to keep, so they are tightening controls over their vast supplier networks. They are also demanding more visibility into operations both upstream and downstream. Consequently, executives at all levels in the supply chain are under tremendous pressure to reduce the risks of counterfeit or inferior products and prevent cyber-security threats. They are also pressured to optimize their operations for quality, costs and compliance. Yes, being an aerospace industry supplier or defense contractor can be daunting, but the rewards are enticing. As a result, the ability to deliver in this demanding, dynamic environment is separating the winners from the losers. Many firms do not try to enter the field. They believe that they are too small to compete in this arena or feel that conforming to AS9100 is a significant barrier to entry. Do not let the need to get familiar with AS9100 and the quality management requirements preclude your firm from competing. The sheer number of components in a typical aircraft or aerospace module offers a vast array of supplier and sub-supplier opportunities, even for companies who have not dealt with AS 9100 and its predecessor regulatory hurdles. Breaking into this market involves becoming familiar with compliance to multiple OEM requirements. However, companies like IQS specialize in helping businesses get up and running quickly with scalable quality management solutions and expertise to grapple with requirements. The right support and training from a certification body and the right technology in your arsenal can help you reap the potential rewards.
Addressing AS9100 and its revisions
Aerospace and defense are heavily regulated and quality-conscious industries. Every stage of production has requirements. But the barrier to entry from a quality perspective for most firms trying to enter this field is conformance to AS9100. Industry suppliers are required to maintain an effective Quality Management System in accordance with the requirements of ISO 9001, AS9100 or equivalent measures in other countries that provide a means of ensuring that parts and products meet specified requirements. AS9100 was established in 1999 for the aerospace and defense market, with several significant revisions since. For example, AS9100 Revision C was released in January 2009 and Revision D was released in September 2016. Companies usually begin adhering to revisions shortly after their release, but some requirements take time. The deadline to implement Revision D is September 2018 - nine months away! This transition aligns directly with that of the underlying standard for quality ISO 9001:2015, released a year earlier but with a three-year transition period. AS9100 Revision D is used by organizations in the aviation, space, and defense sectors and is adopted throughout the supply chain. It applies to firms that design, develop and provide products and services as well as post-delivery support, such as maintenance or spare parts. In the aerospace and defense market AS9100D specifically establishes new or increased emphasis on these areas:
- More product safety references were added.
- Product realization and planning areas were enhanced.
- Counterfeit parts prevention clauses address the negative impact of such components being used in final products.
- Human factors and awareness were added as a consideration in product and service quality and safety along with addressing ethical behavior issues and resulting corrective action.
- Design development, supplier management and configuration management requirements were clarified and improved to address stakeholder needs.
The changes may seem insignificant to those not already in the supplier arena or big hurdles for others. Making sense of them and the requirements for certificates of conformity, control of quality records, first article inspection reports, and other aspects of AS9100 C and D can best be addressed with training or support from a firm that specializes in quality management requirements. The important thing for companies, who want to become suppliers in the aerospace and defense market, to know is that meeting the AS9100D standards can be used to establish a quality management system. Doing so will demonstrate that your organization is capable of meeting supply specs and complying with both statutory and regulatory requirements.
Technology can dramatically improve the effectiveness and validity of your quality management efforts. For example, IQS' systems, like its enterprise quality management software platform and its supplier quality software, can provide enterprise-wide management mechanisms to enable your firms to:
- Track issues.
- Conduct audits.
- Unify quality processes.
- Streamline compliance.
- Record nonconformance situations and corrective actions.
- Minimize supplier-related cost of poor quality problems.
Managing quality is critical in many fields, but paramount in the aerospace and defense market. Integrating quality management systems and requirements with leadership objectives and corporate goals is important for OEMs. Companies trying to compete for lucrative aerospace or defense contracts have limited time and resources to accomplish their goals demonstrating their capabilities at meeting the demands of their contract and AS9100D. To achieve this, however, the need cannot be ignored for embracing technology and tools that will help you enter the arena, scale up with new contracts and address any quality or performance issues thoroughly. Using an effective system creates transparency, helps cut waste and increases efficiency. Furthermore, your company can better compete for new opportunities and contracts with large aerospace, aviation or defense firms that will become considerable growth areas boosting your future.