A Recipe for Quality: Tastes vary in quality process systems

Nov. 1, 1999

A Recipe for Quality

Tastes vary in quality process systems

By Michelle Garetson

November 1999

Creating a quality process for the maintenance facility can be likened to preparing a food dish -- the better the recipe and ingredients, the better the result. Each process needs to suit the taste and requirements of the particular consumer and should offer flexibility to alter those ingredients as needed. Also, too much or too little of one element can ruin the end product.

There are many quality processes available to use as templates for developing the right procedures for any one facility. Research into those various offerings will help the company decide on the best model for their operations. No one process is better than the other, though some seem to be more popular and therefore may appear to be the standard to follow. With the increased emphasis on global markets, having a quality process in place may offer an advantage over competition. Additionally, reviewing present procedures and implementing a quality process will most certainly aid in the efficiency of the operations and enhance the safety environment in the shop.

ISO what?
What is ISO? The official title, when used in full, is International Organization for Standardization, with the short form, ISO. ISO is not an acronym, but a word, derived from the Greek isos, meaning "equal."

ISO's work results in international agreements, which are published as International Standards. ISO 9000 was introduced in 1987 by the International Organization for Standardization and is a group of standards representing an international consensus on good management practices. Within ISO 9000 are three quality assurance models 9001 (design and manufacture), 9002 (services), 9003 (inspection and testing); and a fourth model, ISO 9004, which offers guidelines for managing quality system elements. It includes subsets that address managing the quality of all types of service activities as well as managing the quality of all types of processed materials.

At this year's Heli-Expo, the Helicopter Association International's (HAI) annual convention, United Technologies Corp. (UTC) gave a seminar about their process for achieving ISO 9000 certification.

"It's a business system rather than a quality system," explained Steve Brechter, vice president and general manager of UTFlight, the executive transport unit of United Technologies. "A business is a group of processes and we used ISO 9002 (services model) as a template to help UTC better manage its processes. Better processes produce better service."

It should be noted that ISO 9000 certification is a lengthy, labor-intensive program that involves the whole organization, not just upper management. ISO 9000 requires the documentation of all procedures in place at the facility. It is also not over once certification is achieved. The program continues everyday and is periodically audited to ensure compliance with the standard. ISO 9000 is not a plaque on the wall to be dusted occasionally.

AS 9000 vs. ISO 9000
AS 9000, the Aerospace Basic Quality System Standard, was the result of two major events. The first being the cancellation of aerospace standards Mil-Q-9858A and Mil-I-45208A by the Department of Defense. About this same time, the international quality standard, ISO 9000 was gaining ground as an accepted commercial standard.

No longer under the thumb of the former established quality standards, large aerospace manufacturers began to demand and direct their suppliers to develop quality programs based on ISO 9000. The manufacturers soon found out that ISO 9000, in its simplicity, offered too much latitude and did not specifically address the unique requirements of the aerospace industry. A steering committee made up of Boeing, GE Aircraft Engines, Pratt & Whitney and others met to develop a standard, which in 1997, became AS 9000 that addressed the needs of aerospace, both major and minor manufacturers, suppliers, customers, and regulatory groups.

Tom Willis, a certified quality auditor, an FAA Designated Airworthiness Representative, an A&P, and president of Quality Management Solutions LP, an aviation quality management consulting, training and auditing firm, further explains AS 9000.

"This standard contains all of ISO 9001 plus more than 20 additions peculiar to the needs of the Aerospace manufacturer.Willis adds, "AS 9100 awaits release until the Europeans complete their formal balloting, at which time the document will be jointly released in Europe as EN 9100 and in the United States as AS 9100 around mid-November."

Other choices
There are other choices for quality standards and business tools in aviation.

"In the repair world," says Willis, "a Part 145 Repair Station applicant will not get far with the FAA until they have committed to base their facility on the management of quality. Hence, the FAR speaks of an Inspection Procedures Manual. The proposed revision to FAR 145 expands on the application of quality processes by adding a Quality Assurance element."

• ASA-100 Standard for aircraft parts distributors seeking not registration to ISO 9000 but "accreditation" under AC 00-56 - the Industry Voluntary Distributor Accreditation program.

•Kaizen - a Japanese word meaning "continuous improvement." Kaizen is a business practice that involves everyone -- managers and workers alike -- to constantly monitor and keep focus on company goals, which in turn, can improve efficiency, quality, and safety. Kaizen gave rise to the "just-in-time" inventory management system in an effort to streamline operations and reduce costs.

• Six Sigma - This is not a standard, but a tool for improving quality. Motorola pioneered the use of this tool in the 1980's and the most celebrated application in aviation is within GE.

AlliedSignal has applied the statistical techniques used in Six Sigma to the design of the new AS900 engine for mid-sized corporate and regional jets. The company stated that time-to-certification was shortened from a typical 42 months to 33 months; saving time, money, and effort. It was reported that overall, application of Six Sigma principles has saved the company $500 million in 1998, and is projected to save $600 million in 1999.

Quality Resources

American Society for Quality (ASQ) 611 E. Wisconsin Ave., P.O. Box 3005, Milwaukee, WI 53201,
800-248-1946 or (414) 272-8575;

International Organization for standardization, (ISO) 1, rue de VarembŽ, Case postale 56, CH-1211 Gen?ve 20 Switzerland,
Tel: + 41-22- 749-01-11;

KAIZEN Institute - America 1811 W. 35th St., Austin TX 78703
(512) 452-2696;

Quality Management Solutions LP, N14 W23777 Stone Ridge Dr., Ste. 170, Waukesha, WI 53188 (262) 523-4004; www.qmslpnet.com

The order of things
What's the order of business once a facility has decided to pursue certification? How does the FAA enter the fray?

"A company that is serious about maintaining relationships with customers and suppliers alike will eventually need to get serious about an advanced quality system such as ISO 9000 or AS 9100," says Willis. "Lots of time and money can be (and often is) wasted by trying to piecemeal a system together. We recommend the use of an outside provider who KNOWS aviation and is willing to first offer to conduct a ÔGAP Analysis.' Once the company knows where it is (in relation to a given standard), the management team can consider all the options."

FAA has verbally and in writing stated that while ISO 9000 is meant to help a company maintain and improve quality, the FAA cannot accept a company's registration in lieu of FAA surveillance. In essence, FAA generally will work with a company that has decided to go ISO however, the Principal will reserve the right to make specific requests of a certificate holder to "demonstrate compliance." It's a good idea to keep the FAA in the loop throughout every phase of the implementation process.

Is it worth the effort?
"Some companies have done only that which was required by the regulations of their locale," explains Willis. "Others have invested considerable sums of money into the development of elaborate quality systems because they feel that the investment will give them competitive advantage. Because change is a fact of life, every company will benefit from the skilled management of quality."

"Those who feel they can get by with just the minimums might do only that for a while, however, the competition that chooses to make quality a competitive advantage quite often overtakes them."