Today companies in the aeronautical and airport industry have to provide a response to stringent requirements concerning the quality of their products and processes. In order the provide proof of their capabilities, they have to submit themselves to control systems which are usually based on certification audits.
Quality certification audits arose vigorously in the last few decades of the 20th century, the most well known of which is certification based on the international ISO 9001 standard.
The quality management challenge in the aeronautical industry consists of differentiating among the standards you really need to implement.
Along with other sectors, engineering companies invested their efforts and money to develop their procedures, implement them and oversee their fulfilment in order to obtain this certification, which eventually became an essential requirement for clients to engage their services.
New certifications such as the ISO 14001 environmental management and the OHSAS 18001 occupational health and safety certifications were subsequently added, which were a differentiating element at the outset. Over the course of time, however, they became another necessary prerequisite like the ISO 9001 certification.
Specific certifications like the EN 9100 aerospace quality certification and the PECAL standards have to be added to the ones already mentioned above. The latter are the Spanish Ministry of Defence’s quality management requirements (NATO requirements) which suppliers have to conform to in order to fulfil defence contracts.
We could carry on listing an endless number of certifications and quality labels depending on the kind of service or product supplied. Curiously enough, these are not always required by clients, but rather implemented due to the “contagion effect” caused by the fact that other competing companies are certified, thereby generating a feeling that the client might prefer them due to that additional certification. This belief often takes precedence over what is really necessary for the activity to be performed.
The accumulation of certifiable standards in the sector is presently such that, if they are not properly selected and integrated, they will not only fail to foster efficiency, but may also hinder it in many cases due to the formal steps and bureaucracy involved, which we should not forget are not paid for by the client.
Due to all of the above, the quality management challenge in the aeronautical industry consists of differentiating among the standards you really need to implement and managing to resolve your own certification puzzle under a single integrated management system that includes all the necessary procedures to obtain the different certifications which are really necessary, while avoiding additional formal steps that do not add any value at all and generate unnecessary extra costs.
This challenge is not easy, since it involves making continuous modifications to the implemented system in order to adapt to the standards’ updates and at the same time keeping informed of the requirements laid down by any possible new certifications that might be required. Which one will be the next?