The aerospace sector is currently in the midst of unprecedented growth. In fact, Airbus recently predicted that the number of commercial aircraft in operation will more than double in the next 20 years, whilst Boeing expects Chinese airlines to spend at least $1.3trillion on new aircraft over the same period – a development which will drive significant investment in infrastructure and a technological push to make aircraft more agile and efficient than they’ve ever been before.
To match this incredible period of opportunity and technological innovation, the regulatory system is also evolving in order to keep apace of safety and quality best practice and address some of the key challenges facing the industry. These include the transition to cleaner aircraft, the mammoth task of embracing digitalisation, contending with restricted market access and guaranteeing production capacity.
Indeed, this is already reflected in the upcoming changes to ‘AS9104/1 – Requirements for Aviation Space and Defence Quality Management System Certification Programs’, the industry’s foremost certification framework. Recognising that the boom in air travel is forcing the aerospace sector to re-invent itself, the new rules demonstrate why adherence to best-in-class compliance has never been more important for firms looking to gain a competitive advantage and unlock the benefits of this thriving market.
With an update expected to be released in early 2020, AS 9104/1 standard addresses the fundamental requirements for managing the International Aerospace Quality Group (IAQG) Other Party Management Team (OPMT) Aerospace Quality Management System (AQMS) certification scheme.
Designed to reflect the rapidly shifting industry and simplify the current auditing process, the revision of AS 9104/1 is likely to include a number of changes. Unsurprisingly, these are expected to have a significant impact on current auditing processes.
For instance, the move to introduce two certification structures as per IAF MD5 (The International Accreditation Forum Man Day 5) – consisting of a single site and a multiple site structure – could, for current Campus organisations, drive up audit durations by 20% on average, although this will vary depending on sites, activities, etc.
In addition, the definition of ‘single site’ is set to be relaxed. It may be that where there are multiple buildings in one area such as a warehouse or test facility in close proximity and managed by a select number of staff – this could be classed as a single site.
What’s more when it comes to the new risk assessment and recalculating the audit man days, this will have to be done prior to each audit to account for any changes at the certified organisation. However, the good news is that there will be the ability to make reductions for sites where some processes such as design, procurement or production are not carried out.
Another important change to consider is auditor rotation. The current requirements of the AS 9104/1 standard have been known to cause slight confusion and have therefore been simplified.
Essentially, the revision will allow an auditor to carry out six consecutive audits of the same site before having to stop auditing that site – this will consist of initial, surveillance or recertification audits but will not include specials. After this, at the next audit that specific auditor is off the team, meaning they cannot be a lead or a team member. That same auditor can then carry on after a gap of one audit. This means that if the auditor is rotated around the sites, then an auditor can continue auditing the client – making the whole process much easier to adhere to while still retaining the focus of maintaining an effective audit team.
Audit planning ahead
With certification becoming increasingly important in demonstrating that organisations are a premium player in terms of product quality and process management, all relevant organisations including OEMs and major suppliers will need to participate in audit planning to get ahead of the AS 9104/1 standard update.
This will ensure they can supply the necessary data that would likely affect audit duration, their risk grading, etc. and inherently mean the pre-audit work will need to be collaborative. In terms of best practice, organisations will also need to take a holistic approach to certification.
Given the complexity of the aerospace supply chain, there are almost an exhaustive list of standards and frameworks when it comes to compliance from everything to AS 9100:2018 to managing enterprise risk through ISO 37001 and even in adhering to strict social and environmental obligations via SA 8000 or ISO 14001.
Hence, the interdependent nature of many of these compliance standards means organisations looking to meet the new requirements under AS 9104/1 standard update would be well-served to identify other IAQG standards being used such as AS 9145 or AS 9102. This is so that the IAQG can gauge the uptake and application of these other standards and shows if they are contractually followed down the supply chain.
For those not familiar with the AS 9104/1 standard, now is an apt time to read IAF MD5 and to get to grips with terms such as audit time vs audit duration, which are important aspects of audit planning. It’s also worth mentioning that amid the changes expected in the AS 9104/1, IMS auditing will be allowed per IAF MD11 – this means it can occur at the same time, but the AQMS time must be delivered in full in the plan.
New era of compliance
Undoubtedly, making the transition to the revised version of AS 9104/1 standard will be a challenging process and will include a level of complexity – with many in the industry already considering the impact to their auditing process and that of their supply partners.
The good news is there is a wealth of support out there from industry experts, especially certification bodies, whose extensive expertise and experience are worth their weight in gold when it comes to navigating the minefield of new requirements. At Bureau Veritas, for example, being the largest global certification body to the aerospace industry, our services benefit all players along the value chain, from parts design, development, manufacturers, aircraft and engines manufacturers, through to MRO operators, distributors and ultimately, consumers.
There is no question about it: the aerospace industry is entering a new era of technological innovation, exponential growth and compliance – where best practice and public safety will remain at the top of the agenda. What’s more, while waiting for the changes to the AS 9104/1 standard to come into force, organisations that take the time to make adjustments to their auditing process will see their certification run much smoother in the coming years.