Manufacturers who are AS9100 certified demonstrate to their customers that they are serious about creating and delivering high-quality systems through tested processes. The AS9100 standard works in conjunction with the ISO 9001 standard and is the quality management system (QMS) standard for aviation, aerospace, and defense. As important as this certification can be, it is no surprise that the process to get certified can be daunting and stressful—so we developed a list of tips for you to consider before you pursue the certification process.
5 questions to ask yourself before diving in
Before we dive into the list of tips, you need to ask yourself five questions before pursuing the certification process.
Are your customers asking for AS9100?
Or will this open doors to customers you want to pursue? This will be your biggest tip off to whether you should apply for AS9100 certification.
Do you want to elevate your company's brand?
Once you receive AS9100 accreditation, you will definitely reach that next level of machine shop and can check a box that most shops can’t check.
Do you want to take the steps to run your company more efficiently?
At its core, AS9100 is an effective Business Management System, not just a Quality Management System. Achieving AS9100 certification will help you and your team with additional configuration management, special risk management, process and product management, and more.
Do you have someone in the company dedicated to implementation full-time?
Depending on the size of the company and speed at which you want to achieve certification, you may need at least one person dedicated to go through the entire process. They will make sure steps are being followed and provide the team weekly, monthly, and quarterly updates of what the status is for each step.
Do you have the tools and the resources to effectively roll this out and manage it, such as the right infrastructure, the right ERP system, and right work culture?
Implementing AS9100 into a company and culture that is not disciplined, shoots from the hip and isn’t as concerned about process would be an uphill battle. It’s not a cure all for a bad culture or lack of discipline and disregard for process. It’s also harder and much more expensive to implement and maintain in a paper based environment.
If you didn’t answer all 5 questions with a yes, you might want to wait to follow through with the accreditation process.
“AS9100 can be a set of really good business processes. If you want your customers to feel confident that you're going to execute on their business in a repeatable and sustainable way, something like AS9100 would absolutely give them that confidence.”
Paul Van Metre, ProShop ERP
Tip #1: Give yourself time to implement
As you start the process of certification, you want to establish a goal date and stick with it. Setting goals and milestones will help your entire team stay on track and not overwhelm themselves with stressful work.
Tip #2: Hire a consultant
If you’re a smaller company with little to no experience, it will definitely be beneficial for you to hire a third party with experience. The overall process can be time consuming and get confusing. Someone with experience and understanding can lead the process by providing information needed to understand each step. They will know how to implement each step and understand the legal and industry requirements, so if a problem occurs, they will be able to identify it earlier than you would be able to if done on your own. Although keep in mind that your consultant may have a system (like files and folders on a network) that they are accustomed to using which may not be compatible with how you’d like to manage your AS9100. If they won’t do it your way, move on.
Tip #3: Delegate the process to someone with good organizational and time management skills
You want to assign someone to delegate the entire process to help keep everyone focused. They must understand the process, act accordingly, and implement it to completion. This cannot be assigned to someone who lacks time management and organization skills. This individual must be a member of your team that is efficient, dependable, and understands how a manufacturing company runs and operates. They also need to command respect and have authority within the company so other members of the team will listen to what they have to say.
Tip #4: Go out for quotes for your registrar
Do not simply pick the first registrar you come across. Do your research and request quotes from various companies and individuals. Often, an estimation will be based on the company size and how many hours they are going to be spending in the facility to audit the process.
Tip #5: Choose a registrar that has local auditors
To avoid additional costs, try to select from a registrar that is within your area, so you do not get stuck with travel and accommodations. You need to have a lot of good communication with the auditor, so it’s easier to select one within your area versus someone in another state.
Tip #6: Use a paperless QMS system, like ProShop ERP
It’s not just the difference between paper and paperless. Most companies today have traditional systems (they might also have binders) that involve folder networks filled with files (PDFs, spreadsheets, and word docs) saved on their servers. Different members of their team save the documents in various folders, naming them different things; and a system like that will be a very high overhead, cumbersome way to manage your AS9100.
A QMS system like ProShop organizes everything that is associated with the certification process into modules that can be customized to your processes They will have all the integrated QMS forms and makes it really easy for businesses to create a variety of records from Quality Procedures to Non-Conformance Reports (NCRs). A cloud based system will also help protect you from cybersecurity threats.
Tip #7: Set monthly goals
By setting weekly, monthly, and quarterly goals with your team, you are able to gauge where you are at in terms of completing the certification process. You want to make sure that everyone on the team knows their action items and what the next two weeks will look like. This strategy helps you break the entire experience into smaller, more manageable steps that make it easier to reach the finish line.
Tip #8: Interview your auditor in advance
You’re going to spend a lot of time communicating with your auditor, so you want to make sure you have a great channel of communication and positive energy from the start. If there is a breakdown of communication at any time during the process, it’s going to get quite arduous.
You want to interview the auditor in advance and get an understanding of what their experience is; are they punctual; etc. If you do not feel comfortable with them, it’s okay to select another auditor for an interview until you find the right fit for your company.
Tip #9: Use your network of peers for their experiences and recommendations
More than likely some of your peers have gone through, or are going through, the certification. Do not hesitate to reach out to them and ask questions or advice on how to handle the process. Most shops are surprisingly open to sharing their experience. You will likely learn from their mistakes and have great takeaways from communicating with your peers and hearing about their experiences.
Tip #10: Build a solid plan, and don’t panic
It is important not to set yourself up for failure, so try to set realistic goals and tasks for yourself and your team by building a viable plan that you can execute. Share that plan and get the feedback from your team so they can offer feedback on how certain steps may take during production hours.
Using ProShop ERP to build your process for getting AS9100 certified
ProShop comes with all the modules that you would need for AS9100 certification, including:
Generally, the modules are empty of content and are designed as a blank slate for you to start building and customizing your own processes. But we offer a plug-and-play complete QMS system option called the AS9100 Flying Start Package. It’s a one-time purchase of content in your ProShop system with a complete quality manual, procedures, tasks, and training associated with company positions, all in alignment with the AS9100 standard.
Each record is designed to work with the way ProShop works; for example, the process for contract review—this references the checklist that’s integrated right on each customer’s purchase order for contract review, which is compliant to the standard. This is a big advantage for companies who do not have a ton of experience with the standard and can make the process much faster. If you still need more help, our ASQ Certified Quality Auditors can help you prepare for your registration including performing gap audits and more. We’ve had clients get ProShop and pass their AS9100 certification in as little as 6 months from start to finish, and with minimal expense. As one auditor told us “ProShop can help a company get certified in half the time and expense of any other QMS system I’ve run across.”