During a routine cryogenic proof test on 28th February 2020, SpaceX’s Starship SN1 prototype suffered a catastrophic failure.
Musk indicated that the failure was due to bad welding at the base of the rocket, around the area of the puck that is designed to bear the engine thrust load.
Starship SN3 suffered a similar fate during a round of pressure testing, where the lower of the two tanks collapsed due to test configuration mistakes.
Of course, this is the whole point of testing; failures such as these are half expected, and should be planned for accordingly. Failures like SN1 and SN3 pave the way for future successes like the Crew Dragon launch to the ISS. Failure is an essential ingredient that is necessary to push the limits of understanding.
But it does raise an interesting and important question – when failure is a statistical inevitability, what role does process standardization and quality management play in the prevention and meaningful gain of failure?
In this Process Street article we’ll be looking at AS9100D, the foremost aerospace quality management standard. How can you implement, maintain, and utilize AS9100D to proactively mitigate failure, as well as a tool to learn from errors and failure to drive improvement and optimization?
- What is AS9100D?
- AS9100D vs ISO 9001
- Importance of aerospace quality management
- Benefits of AS9100D
- Free AS9100D templates
- How to implement AS9100D with Process Street
Want to skip straight to the templates? No worries! Here’s a preview of the free templates to come and a list that you can use to cut straight to the chase.
Free AS9100D templates (quick list)
- AS9100D Checklist (Mandatory Documentation for AS9100D)
- AS9100D Quality Management System Structure Template
- AS9100D Audit Checklist
- AS9100D Project Manager Meeting Planner Checklist
- AS9100D Risk Management Checklist
- AS9100C to AS9100D Transition Requirements Checklist
What is AS9100D?
AS9100D (or AS9100 Rev D) is an international standard which specifies the requirements for an aerospace quality management system. That’s everything from establishment to maintenance and continuous improvement of the system.
The full name is AS9100: Quality Management Systems – Requirements for Aviation, Space and Defense Organizations and the standard is designed for use by those companies who design, develop, and manufacture aircraft and aviation products, with the end goal of supplying them to both civil and military aviation entities. “Rev D” refers to the most current iteration of the standard, last updated in 2016.
Since AS9100D is a standard, organizations can get certified if they meet the requirements. Getting certified means they have achieved a high standard of quality assurance in the production of their products and services, which is obviously a reason why many companies strive towards AS9100D certification, not least because of the high standards of customer satisfaction the aerospace industry demands, as well as strict laws and regulations in place for the safety and proper operation of aviation and space vehicles.
In summary, AS9100 focuses on the processes of how parts and components (products) are actually made, as opposed to just looking at the final finished product. It outlines clear requirements for a quality management system that enables companies to provide safe, high-quality products on time.
A brief history of AS9100
AS9100 first came into being back in 1999, published by the Society of Automotive Engineers and the European Association of Aerospace Industries. At the time, the aim was to fulfill the need for a quality management system to serve existing government and regulatory requirements of a burgeoning aerospace industry. Organizations were already using ISO 9001 for quality management, but found there was a need for additional, more specific aerospace requirements. Thus, AS9100 was born.
The standard was prepared and developed by the International Aerospace Quality Group (IAQG) with the aid of aviation, space and defense experts from across the world.
Currently, there are at least two additional aerospace management standards:
- AS9110: The standard for repair stations, with specific requirements that are critical for the maintenance of commercial, private, and military aircrafts.
- AS9120: The standard for stockists and distributors of parts to manufacturers that supply the aerospace industry.
AS9100 has earned a reputation as an emblem of high quality management standards, and as a result many aerospace companies will expect AS9100D as a prerequisite for any kind of working relationship.
Who is AS9100D for?
AS9100D is an industry-specific standard, specifically designed for aerospace and aviation companies. Any organization in the relevant industry can make use of AS9100D, regardless of size or organizational structure. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Quality management organizations working with aerospace manufacturers
- Designers of aerospace parts and assemblies
- Other companies working in the aerospace industry regularly or irregularly
- Manufacturers of aircraft components and materials
Do you really need AS9100D?
The answer to this question will depend on the context of who is asking. Strictly speaking, AS9100D is not required by law. However, certain clients or businesses may require that you get AS9100D certification as a contractual obligation.
The main reason to adopt AS9100D is to improve the quality control of manufacturing in order to offer better products and services.
AS9100D vs ISO 9001: How are they related?
AS9100D can be understood as a kind of modification of ISO 9001, since it was originally designed to accommodate for some aerospace specific needs that were determined to be out of the scope of ISO 9001.
So, let’s start with the similarities. Both ISO 9001 and AS9100D share the 10 part management system standard (MSS) structure that can be seen across all of ISO’s recent management system standards. This makes it easy for companies to transition from ISO 9001, and implement both requirements at the same time.
Both AS9100D and ISO 9001 place a significant emphasis on risk management as well as the idea of continuous improvement.
Of the 10 clauses that AS9100D and ISO 9001 share, here are the seven most important components (after the initial scope, normative references and terminology sections):
- Context of the Organization
- Performance Evaluation
AS9100D takes the foundational concepts of ISO 9001 and expands them, adding additional requirements pertaining to counterfeit parts and product safety. As mentioned above, risk is an even more crucial component of AS9100D, and companies must place more significant considerations on how risks can impact their deliverables.
So what’s different about AS9100D, compared to ISO 9001? Here’s a full list of the additional aerospace-specific requirements of AS9100D:
- Operational risk management
- Configuration management
- Work transfers
- Prevention and detection of counterfeit parts
- Product safety
- Product quality and on-time delivery objectives
- Key process performance indicators (KPIs)
- Planning of product lifecycle
- Control of critical items/key characteristics
- Control of external processes and providers
- Monitoring of external providers
- More stringent production process controls
- Prevention and detection of foreign objects (FOD)
Why is aerospace quality management important?
Aerospace quality management is vital to the successful delivery of safe and satisfactory products and services. Without a proper quality management system (QMS), there can be significant and severe consequences. More than just loss of profit, human lives are at risk when quality is not prioritized in the aerospace industry.
Not only that, aerospace and aviation manufacturers rely on large, complex supplier networks to bring their products and services to market. Vendor communication in these complex supply chain networks is an important part of why AS9100D is so important. A&D is a highly regulated industry – compliance with (and certification to) quality standards like AS9100D help vendors ensure that best practices in quality control and compliance are met.
By seeking to improve the systems and processes in the operation and maintenance of fleets of aircraft with a proper QMS implementation, companies can automate processes, lower human error, and reduce risk.
Benefits of AS9100D
Let’s break down some of the specific benefits of AS9100D for aerospace quality management.
Improved operational efficiency
By utilizing a standard like AS9100D to bring your internal procedures to a consistent level of quality you will in turn improve the reliability and consistency of your outputs. This result comes from lower rates of human error as well as improved quality controls.
AS9100D’s focus on continuous improvement also helps to build a company culture where those who use the processes most take ownership of them, and are invested in their improvement.
Putting a quality management system in place using AS9100D will help you save time and money in the long-term, and will position your company to identify and address issues before they turn into problems that negatively impact your outputs.
Happier customers (& more satisfied stakeholders)
Improving internal processes helps you create better products and deliver better services, which all feeds into a universally better customer experience. AS9100D is designed to examine the areas where your business impacts customers and key stakeholders, and by working to improve those areas you will be able to keep everyone satisfied.
Your customers and stakeholders will notice when you are going the extra mile to serve them the highest quality services possible, and proving to them that you care about their success will result in more business and improved customer lifetime value (CLV).
Build a reputation for excellence
Meeting such high standards as AS9100D sends a message to potential customers that you have what it takes to deliver what they want to the highest quality possible. Firmly establishing yourself as a leader in quality management will unlock access to a wider range of global markets, with more opportunities for business in the aerospace and defense industries. What’s more, many manufacturers and vendors will require that you have AS9100D certification before they do business with you.
Improved organizational knowledge and company culture
A9100D helps you set initiatives for employee education and encourages a company culture of integrity and refined organizational knowledge. When your employees have access to proper training and there are clear, well-designed and documented procedures in place for educating them about their responsibilities and the inner workings of internal processes, general workplace happiness increases because employees feel more compelled and involved in the development of the company.
When everyone has the opportunity to participate in the development of products and services and everyone involved in the process has proper training and information to do their jobs correctly, your company will operate like a well oiled machine and you will see improvements to operational efficiency and productivity.
Improved risk management (less firefighting)
AS9100D has a keen focus on the evaluation and management of risks; it encourages risk-based thinking to help define best practices for approaching and resolving risk. In the aerospace industry especially, risk management is crucial and it is essential that you can anticipate as well as address risks head on before they have the chance to develop into bigger problems that risk the safety of human lives as well as hindering or complicating standard operating procedures.
Free AS9100D templates
Here we have six AS9100D templates that will help you hit the ground running with implementing and auditing an aerospace quality management system. The templates are:
AS9100D Checklist (Mandatory Documentation for AS9100D)
What we have here is basically a simple AS9100D implementation checklist. It’s probably going to be the most useful for you if you’re just getting started with implementing a quality management system to the requirements of AS9100D.
AS9100D Quality Management System Structure Template
This template will help you build a quality management system mini-manual for your AS9100D implementation. This mini-manual will provide you with a handy reference to the high-level overview of your QMS, including:
- Details of core procedures
- Amendments (revisions and versioning of the QMS)
- Introduction and quality policy
- Key responsibilities
- Flow diagrams for key procedures
AS9100D Audit Checklist
This AS9100D audit template pairs well with the AS9100D implementation checklist, and follows much the same structure. It can be used to perform internal audits or to prepare for an external audit.
AS9100D Project Manager Meeting Planner Checklist
This template will help management of the QMS by facilitating quick and easy meeting planning. Communication and synchronization between key actors and process owners is essential during all stages of the AS9100D QMS, from planning and implementation to the maintenance and continuous improvement of the system.
AS9100D Risk Management Checklist
As we’ve mentioned in this article, risk management is an important aspect of AS9100D, especially in aerospace engineering. This checklist will help you assess internal and external risks and guide you through the process of employing risk-based thinking to prevent serious issues arising from lack of proper planning.
It includes additional guidance on how to perform a SWOT analysis as well as resources for similar kinds of risk analysis for business process management.
AS9100C to AS9100D Transition Requirements Checklist
AS9100 is a standard that is constantly being revised and updated; the most recent version of which is AS9100D. If you have worked with a previous version of AS9100, namely AS9100C, this checklist will help you perform the necessary steps to transition your QMS from AS9100C to the new AS9100D.
How to implement AS9100D with Process Street
Getting to grips with a full AS9100D implementation is no small task, and it requires a dedication to hard work and a rigorous process-based approach to business management in your organization. In order to meet each and every AS9100D requirement, you will need a process in place to systematically address the many aspects of the standard and its implementation. To achieve AS9100D certification, you will need a process to follow. To update to the latest version of the standard, you will need a process in place. You can see where I’m going with this.
In a nutshell, Process Street is super-powered checklists. It’s a state of the art BPM software that allows you to quickly and easily create processes for everything.
Here’s a great intro video that explains the basics:
To summarize, Process Street allows you to create templates for all of your important processes. From that template, you run individual checklists. Kind of like sending emails from a master template, but with checklists.
You can also link up thousands of apps for even more powerful automations, using Zapier, webhooks, or API integrations. If that’s not enough, you can also supercharge your processes up an extra notch with features like this:
- Stop tasks (for process enforcement)
- Dynamic due dates (for making sure work is completed on time)
- Task permissions (for hiding sensitive data from prying eyes)
- Conditional logic (for creating robust checklists that change and respond to user input)
- Approval tasks (for getting work approved ASAP, as painlessly as possible)
- Embed widgets (for packing out your checklists with all the context and info you could ever want)
- Role and task assignments (for assigning specific members of your team to specific tasks)
On the topic of workflow automation, if you’re interested to see how to hack your workflows for maximum automation, check out this great webinar:
So back to AS9100D. We can basically think of it as a simple set of processes. Your quality management system is pretty much made up of a bunch of different processes. You have processes for everything, even if they’re not very good processes, or you haven’t spent much time thinking about them.
We’ve written about how recent changes to ISO standards have made it easier than ever to use BPM software like Process Street to implement and maintain quality management systems. Since AS9100D is based on ISO 9001, the same applies.
You will have to deal with many different internal processes in the context of an AS9100D implementation. Some of them will need many procedure steps and extensive work instructions. Others may need fewer steps but more clearly worded instructions. You may determine some processes to be in need of more detailed planning, whereas others you can comfortably dive straight into with no formal planning.
What I’m describing in these various approaches to process management is something we’ve referred to as Agile ISO in the past. Again, the principle holds up for AS9100D due to the shared Management System Standard structure of AS9100D and ISO 9001 (Annex L).
Agile ISO is the ability to create different processes, in different ways, to suit different business needs, and this is where Process Street comes in.
What tools have you used to help implement AS9100D in your organization? What kind of problems did you face? Let us know in the comments, we’d love to hear from you!