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I had the privilege of working with American Standard Circuits (ASC) over the past year with their successful pursuit of AS9100 quality management system certification. The company has chosen to share their approach, lessons learned and benefits gained by going through this formidable process.
What is AS9100?
AS9100 is a quality management standard for the aviation, space, and defense industries. AS9100 is based on the ISO 9001 standard, and in fact, includes 100% of the requirements of ISO 9001 plus more than 100 additional requirements specific to the aerospace industry. In other words, ISO on steroids! Being registered to AS9100 means being registered to ISO 9001 by default; however, many companies choose to maintain both certifications primarily due to this misunderstanding with their non-aerospace customers. Both standards are organized in the same way and use the same numbering system.
This is the first question I asked ASC CEO Anaya Vardya, as we discussed the resources, discipline and hard work that was going to be required by his team. Anaya stated that ASC was currently supplying many of the tier-one aerospace and defense OEMs under their ISO and ITAR certifications, but recently, customer pressure was increasing for them to add AS9100 to their quality portfolio. He also shared that without AS9100 certification, ASC was prohibited from participating in new programs with many potential customers.
My second question was focused around understanding what Anaya’s expectations were for his company’s AS9100 implementation. There are two potential answers to this question, and Anaya’s answer was the sole reason for our joint success in gaining certification. He said, “Steve, I want to use this process to make my company better. I see this as a tool to drive operational improvement throughout every single process and become a better supplier to our customers.” Had he chosen the other answer, “It’s a sales tool, I want the certification because my customers are forcing me to,” we would not have engaged. There are a lot of consultants that can do that; my philosophy is to use the process to improve organizational performance, so Anaya and I were well aligned from day one.
Step One: AS9100 Team ID and Awareness Training
The first step was identifying the ASC team that would be tasked with execution of the implementation plan. This is sometimes called the AS/ISO Steering Committee, or something similar. ASC chose to utilize their current leadership team, or “top management” in the vernacular of the standard. The important element here was that ASC’s team represented senior management of every major functional area of the company. While it is cliché, it is also a fact; without full support of top management any effort of this magnitude will not be successful. Under Anaya’s leadership, ASC’s management was fully on board, which is another reason for their success and realization of organizational improvement.
The ASC Leadership Team
- Gordhan Patel, Chairman & Owner
- Anaya Vardya, CEO & Owner
- Jay Hirpara, Executive Vice President & Owner
- Dave Lackey, VP of Business Development
- Dave Olson, VP of Operations
- John Bushie, Process Engineering & Technology Manager
- Jim Zeman, Director of Quality
- Mohammed Khan, Quality Manager
- John Rupp, Quality Systems Manager
The second part of this step was AS9100 Awareness Training, and Anaya was adamant that ASC’s entire top management go through my two-day course. Reviewing each requirement in straightforward language, deep-diving into the standard and a mock audit to AS9100 requirements left the members with a solid working knowledge of the requirements, and expectations of each of them—a benefit that would pay tremendous ongoing dividends as we would move through the implementation.
Step Two: GAP Analysis Audit
The next step was to perform an in-depth GAP analysis of ASC’s ISO 9001: 2008 quality management system (QMS). The audit was a 50-page comprehensive evaluation of 221 elements of the standard, with the purpose of identifying areas of the QMS (GAPs) that would need to be upgraded to be in compliance with the aerospace requirements. The results of the GAP Analysis showed that the current QMS was 76% compliant to AS9100, which is a pretty good starting point. Keep in mind that American Standard had been ISO 9001 certified for a very long time, and has a very robust QMS. The GAP results illustrate just how difficult aerospace requirements are and the degree of difficulty transitioning from ISO 9001. Remember, AS9100 contains 100% of ISO 9001 requirements, plus an additional 100!
Step Three: Custom Implementation Plan
This step involved using the GAP results as inputs to developing a detailed 5-Step Implementation Plan customized to ASC’s needs, backwards scheduled to fit with Anaya’s goal of achieving AS9100 certification in less than 12 months. Working with the Leadership Team, we established specific tasks, owners and due dates. One of the major concerns with the staff was the overwhelming amount of work that needed to be done, which is understandable when looking at the project as a whole. The beauty of a well-designed implementation plan is that it breaks the project down into small, bite-size buckets that provide ongoing motivation as they get completed and checked off.
The implementation plan allowed ASC’s management to think through critical challenges before beginning, thereby saving time, energy, and money. By detailing all milestone steps before starting the project, the individual owners can anticipate factors they otherwise would not consider until encountered and identify potential problems and challenges on the front end. The planning becomes proactive instead of reactive, which allows best practices to be used and ensures that energy and time are spent on implementing a high quality, well‐thought‐out plan rather than “putting out fires.”
Step Four: Execution and History Building
Execution is where the proverbial rubber hits the road, turning the planning into reality. The Right Approach Consulting has a 100% certification success rate, and when we are hired to either transition a QMS, or build one from scratch, I offer the client an ironclad guarantee that together we will achieve certification. The only stipulation to my guarantee is that the client owns the execution. I own the implementation plan, the system and the training, but I cannot execute for them.
Anaya and his management team not only owned the execution, they killed it! American Standard recognized the value AS9100 would provide to the company and they were committed. From the management team, through the supervision and the front-line workers, every single employee gave 100% to the effort over and above their day jobs.